By Richard P. Abels
This biography of Alfred the good, king of the West Saxons (871-899), combines a delicate analyzing of the first resources with a cautious review of the latest scholarly learn at the background and archaeology of ninth-century England. Alfred emerges from the pages of this biography as an exceptional warlord, an efficient and creative ruler, and a passionate pupil whose piety and highbrow interest led him to sponsor a cultural and non secular renaissance. Alfred's victories at the battlefield and his sweeping administrative options not just preserved his local Wessex from viking conquest, yet begun the method of political consolidation that may culminate within the construction of the dominion of britain.
Alfred the nice: battle, Kingship and tradition in Anglo-Saxon England strips away the varnish of later interpretations to get well the old Alfredpragmatic, beneficiant, brutal, pious, scholarly in the context of his personal age.
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Additional info for Alfred the Great: War, Kingship and Culture in Anglo-Saxon England
3 T hat at least is how it looks in retrospect. In the course of the tenth century Wessex was transform ed into England, and Alfred’s reign was the critical precondition for this p ro cess. But this m ust n o t mislead us into endowing Alfred with a prescience he could n o t have possessed. W hat Alfred ruled and how he ruled it h ad far m ore in com m on with the kingship of his father and brothers than with th a t of his great-grandson, Edgar the Peaceable (959-75), who could justly claim to be ‘king o f the English’ and ‘governor and ruler o f all o f B ritain’,4 let alone with the N orm an and Angevin monarchies of medieval England.
27 Since Alfred’s law code was an expression of regality, it is little w onder th at it accorded greater protection to the p er sons and h o n o u r o f the king’s bishops and ealdorm en than to ordinary nobles. 28 From the earlier laws of Ine we know that royal household dependants were similarly accorded high status and protection because of their familiar relationship with the king. T he im plicit distinction between a nobility of blood and one o f service, however, had eroded by the nin th century, as aristocratic landholders were incorporated into a more vigorous and all-embracing conception of royal govern ance.
U nder Berhtwulf’s succes sor, Burgred (852-874), relations between the two kingdoms grew even closer. In 853 /Ethelwulf sent an army against the Welsh in response to a M ercian request for aid. Later th at same year Burgred took /Ethelw ulf s daughter, /Ethelswith, as his wife. Berkshire passed perm anently into West Saxon hands sometime before A lfred’s birth at W antage in 848 o r 849. W hat in the past had required sword and fire now took place peacefully, as King Berhtwulf acceded to the wishes of his m ore powerful neighbour to the south.