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King Alfred: Why Was He So “Great” And Other Facts About The King Of Dark Ages

King Alfred is not as widely-discussed as Henry the 8th but he is the only English ruler who had the honor to be called “great.” What did he do to get such an envy-worthy nickname? Read on to find out the most interesting facts about King Alfred the Great.

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King Alfred the Great: facts

King Alfred was the son of the King of Wessex. He was not supposed to become the Anglo-Saxons ruler but destiny had her own plans. Alfred had 4 older brothers so he knew the chances of him becoming a king one day were very slim.

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However, it was a very difficult period in English history and increasing Viking attacks took all Alfred’s brothers’ lives, making him the one and only heir to the throne.

Some of King Alfred the Great’s biggest achievements include defending the Wessex kingdom against Vikings and promoting education.

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Here are a few cool things you might not know about him and his reign:

  • he was a great king but there were some “sins” he had to overcome to become a religious ruler, the biggest one being his wild affection for the opposite sex;
  • he wasn’t actually a skilled worrier, he won battles thanks to his intelligence and diplomatic skills;
  • he started the unification of England, calling himself the King of English, which his dynasty continued;
  • he increased the literacy rate in his kingdom by changing the main education language from Latin to English;
  • during his lifetime, he had his own biographer, Welsh monk Asser, whose biography is now the main source of information about the King;
  • it’s suspected that he suffered from inflammatory bowel disease for the most part of his life, which is the same illness Queen Victoria’s husband Prince Albert would have centuries later;
  • he became a godfather to the King of Danish Vikings, Guthrum, after the latter converted to Christianity as a part of a peace treaty;
  • according to historical records, Pope Leo IV anointed him as a king when he joined his father for a pilgrimage to Rome as a child.

How Alfred the Great’s reign ended

Just like any king, Alfred needed a queen, even though a woman who wedded a king wasn’t called “queen” at that time. He married the Mercian princess, Ealhswith, to secure the relationship between the two royal houses and bring them together.

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The couple had 5 children: 2 sons and three daughters. One of the daughters became a nun while her siblings were married off for diplomatic purposes. The King passed away in 899 and his eldest son, Edward the Elder, inherited the throne.

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Alfred the Great’s death raises many questions but it’s generally believed that he succumbed to his illness. His wife passed away 3 years later.

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After becoming the King, Edward the Elder worked hard on continuing his father’s legacy and uniting English kingdoms in one. Now we can see why King Alfred was really “great”!

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