The Last Kingdom premiered on 10 October, 2015 on BBC America. The TV show is based on Bernard Cornwell’s best-selling series of historical novels known as The Saxon Stories. The plot focus on King Alfred the Great. What do you know about him? Today, ten things you should know.
Alfred the Great (849 – 26 October 899) was King of Wessex from 871 to 899. He had born in Wantage, in the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Wessex located in the southwest of current England.
His father, Aethelwulf, was already king of Wessex but Alfred had four older brothers. Thus, it was unlikely he would ever be king.
At that time, the Vikings were raiding England. In fact, they had conquered all the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms except for Wessex.
In 1870, Alfred’s father had died and Alfred became his king/brother’s second in command. He led the Wessex army to a great victory at the Battle of Ashdown.
In 871, Alfred’s brother Aethelred died in a battle and he was crowned king.
Alfred was a very intelligent person, quite educated for those times. He loved to learn and memorize poems, he had travelled to Rome, he founded schools and monasteries, and he wanted peace.
“He seems to me a very foolish man, and very wretched, who will not increase his understanding while he is in the world, and ever wish and long to reach that endless life where all shall be made clear.” Alfred The Great.
However in 878, the Danish King Guthrum led a surprise attack against Wessex. Alfred managed to escape but with only a few men. In Athelney, he plotted his counterattack with a new and strong army.
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Alfred counterattacked the Vikings and defeated them at Chippenham. He then required that the Vikings convert to Christianity and established a peace treaty. The Vikings land was called the Danelaw.
With the peace, Alfred made numerous improvements to his kingdom. He built forts throughout the country, established a strong navy, and a national code of law.
He died in 899 in Winchester. His grandson Aethelstan would be called the first King of England.