Alfred The Great

Alfred the Great is considered as one of the best rulers of England and the Anglo-Saxon people. As ruler he installed many new programs for education, social reforms, and was a successful leader at times of war with the Vikings. He received the title of Alfred the Great many centuries after his death. No other English monarch has ever been given the title of “The Great”.

Alfred The Great

Childhood years

Alfred the great was born in Wantage during the year of 849 C.E. His father was King Aethelwulf of the Wessex. He was the youngest of five boys. His mother was named Osburh and was an important influence throughout her lifetime.

At the age of four he traveled to Rome to meet with Pope Leo IV. While in Rome he confirmed his Christine faith and was anointed as an honorary consul to Rome.

Alfred the Great was an intelligent child. He was also ill many times throughout his youth years. He memorized poems by listening and repeating the words. He could not read or write as a child. He later was able to read and write in English by the time he was a teenager.

Ascension to the throne

In 856 C.E. Aethelwulf had problems with his eldest son Aethelbald. The two decided that Aethelwulf would remain as ruler of the east Wessex and Aethelbald would be ruler of west Wessex.

After King Aethelwulf died in 858 C.E. the throne would pass through his brothers in succession. He married his wife Ealhswith who was related to the Mercian Kings and they had five children.

In 868 C.E. Alfred the great went to learn military tactics while fighting against the Vikings in East Anglia. The Vikings marched on Wessex in 871 C.E. and Alfred was elevated to number two in command under his brother Aethelred who was king.

The Vikings crushed the two commanders at the Battle of Reading. A few days later the Wessex army regrouped and attacked the Viking at the Battle of Ashdown and won a tremendous victory.

During the same year Aethelred died and Alfred was made king in April of 871 C.E. After Alfred was made king he continued his battles with the Vikings for several more years.

In 876 C.E. Guthrum led the Vikings into Wareham where Alfred tried to blockade the Vikings. He was defeated by Guthrum’s army at Chippenham.

Alfred the Great then regrouped his Wessex army and won the Battle of Edington. He then brought the Vikings to submission at Chippenham.

After defeating the Vikings at Chippenham in 878 C.E. the two leaders entered in an agreement of peace. The peace agreement allowed for Alfred to control Wessex and Guthrum controlled lands in East Anglia.

After he won, Alfred forced the Vikings to convert to Christianity. It was not until 886 C.E. that he would occupy London once again from Viking control.

Reforms of Alfred the Great

During his time as King of England, Alfred the Great installed many social reforms and education programs. He rebuilt the English school system through new schools and monasteries. He was instrumental in translating many great pieces of knowledge from Latin to English.

Other reforms he made were improvements to the navy and constructing forts. The reforms included having landowners to participate in the military, help with work on the forts, and building bridges. Many of the new forts became towns with walls or moats surrounding them for safety.

Around 890 C.E. he also instituted what is known as the Law Code. The new code introduced a series of new laws that pertained to everyone.

Alfred the Great died in 899 C.E. leaving his kingdom to his son Edward.

Important facts about Alfred the Great

  • Alfred the Great was the fifth child of King Aethelwulf of the Wessex.
  • He was often sick as a child.
  • Alfred the Great learned to memorize poems at a young age.
  • He did not learn to read and write English until his teenage years.
  • Alfred the Great became King of Wessex in 871 C.E.
  • He was instrumental in defeating the Vikings and making them convert to Christianity.
  • Alfred the Great is the only English ruler to be referred to as “The Great”.
  • He rebuilt the English school system, translated many classic works from Latin to English, and constructed fortified towns complete with moats and manned bridges.


  1. Who was Alfred the Great’s father?

King Aethelwulf of the Wessex

  1. Alfred the Great defeated which King of the Vikings?


  1. When did Alfred the Great learn how to read and write in English?

As a teenager

  1. In what year did Alfred the Great recapture London?

886 C.E.