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The Danes withdrew to Mercia. Just because you're king, and roundly lauded as Great, doesn't mean there won't be mysteries around your life and, for that matter, your death. Alfred was the youngest son of Ethelwulf, king of Wessex.In 865, when Alfred was a youth, Wessex and the other Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in England - Northumbria, East Anglia, and Mercia - were threatened by invasion when a Danish Viking "Great Army" landed on the east coast.The Danes first conquered Northumbria and East Anglia and then turned to attack Mercia. Æthelwulf returns home, but Æthelbald refuses to give up his position, forcing Æthelwulf to retire to Kent with Æthelberht. In one of these[141] the writing is prose, in the other[142] a combination of prose and alliterating verse. The result was a land battle involving hand-to-hand fighting on board the two lashed vessels. He was the youngest son of King Æthelwulf of Wessex. Alfred died in 899 and was succeeded by his son Edward. The Danes broke their word, and after killing all the hostages, slipped away under cover of night to Exeter in Devon. On a trip to Rome Alfred had stayed with Charles the Bald and it is possible that he may have studied how the Carolingian kings had dealt with Viking raiders. By the 890s, Alfred's charters and coinage were referring to him as 'king of the English'. The Alfredian burh represented a stage in the evolution of English medieval towns and boroughs. Alfred died in 899, aged 50, and was buried in Winchester, the burial place of the West Saxon royal family. [101][96] Alfred's ships immediately moved to block their escape. Alfred was a son of Æthelwulf, king of Wessex, and his wife Osburh. By the time of the Reformation, Alfred was seen as a pious Christian ruler who promoted the use of English rather than Latin, and so the translations that he commissioned were viewed as untainted by the later Roman Catholic influences of the Normans. Before his death he ordered the construction of the New Minster hoping that it would become a mausoleum for him and his family. The Germanic tribes who invaded Britain in the fifth and sixth centuries relied upon the unarmoured infantry supplied by their tribal levy, or fyrd, and it was upon this system that the military power of the several kingdoms of early Anglo-Saxon England depended. The exact circumstances and the place of his death are not known. [66], While he was in talks with Hastein, the Danes at Appledore broke out and struck north-westwards. [31] On their return from Rome in 856, Æthelwulf was deposed by his son Æthelbald. "Therefore, he seems to me a very foolish man, and truly 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. [99] The warships of the time were not designed to be ship killers but rather troop carriers. After the arm and axe were replaced, the statue was again vandalised on Christmas Eve 2008, losing its axe. [93] Alfred's burghal system was revolutionary in its strategic conception and potentially expensive in its execution. [120], Very little is known of the church under Alfred. The jewel certainly dates from Alfred's reign. In fact, several of Alfred's laws contradicted the laws of Ine that form an integral part of the code. [62], This is also the period in which almost all chroniclers agree that the Saxon people of pre-unification England submitted to Alfred. Only one made it; Alfred's ships intercepted the other two. The pope sent gifts to Alfred, including what was reputed to be a piece of the True Cross. The Danes had beached half their ships and gone inland. The Danes were heavily outnumbered, but as the tide rose, they returned to their boats which, with shallower drafts, were freed first. [129], Following the example of Charlemagne, Alfred established a court school for the education of his own children, those of the nobility, and "a good many of lesser birth". Scholars more often refer to translations as "Alfredian" indicating that they probably had something to do with his patronage but are unlikely to be his own work. (Odejea / CC BY-SA 3.0 ) Top image: Left - Alfred the Great, painting in the Bodleian Gallery. [150], In 868, Alfred married Ealhswith, daughter of a Mercian nobleman, Æthelred Mucel, Ealdorman of the Gaini. It lists the hidage for each of the fortified towns contained in the document. [78] To maintain the burhs, and to reorganise the fyrd as a standing army, Alfred expanded the tax and conscription system based on the productivity of a tenant's landholding. In January 2014, a fragment of pelvis that had been unearthed in the 1999 excavation of the Hyde site, and had subsequently lain in a Winchester museum store room, was radiocarbon-dated to the correct period. The mercy that Christ infused into Mosaic law underlies the injury tariffs that figure so prominently in barbarian law codes since Christian synods "established, through that mercy which Christ taught, that for almost every misdeed at the first offence secular lords might with their permission receive without sin the monetary compensation which they then fixed". [74][75][76], Tenants in Anglo-Saxon England had a threefold obligation based on their landholding: the so-called "common burdens" of military service, fortress work, and bridge repair. In their raids the Anglo-Saxons traditionally preferred to attack head-on by assembling their forces in a shield wall, advancing against their target and overcoming the oncoming wall marshalled against them in defence. He prevented England from falling to the Danes and promoted learning and literacy. They entrenched themselves, the larger body, at Appledore, Kent and the lesser under Hastein, at Milton, also in Kent. [49], In other words, Alfred succeeded to Ceolwulf's kingdom consisting of western Mercia, and Guthrum incorporated the eastern part of Mercia into an enlarged kingdom of East Anglia (henceforward known as the Danelaw). [151], They had five or six children together, including Edward the Elder who succeeded his father as king; Æthelflæd who became lady of the Mercians; and Ælfthryth who married Baldwin II, Count of Flanders. [155] How he died is unknown, but he suffered throughout his life with a painful and unpleasant illness. Æthelwulf (/ ˈ ɛ θ əl w ʊ l f /; Old English for "Noble Wolf"; died 13 January 858) was King of Wessex from 839 to 858. [90], The burhs were connected by a road system maintained for army use (known as herepaths). [135], One might add to this list the translation, in Alfred's law code, of excerpts from the Vulgate Book of Exodus. Edward marched with his army to the nearby Iron Age hillfort at Badbury Rings. On this occasion a great number of stone coffins were dug up, with a variety of other curious articles, such as chalices, patens, rings, buckles, the leather of shoes and boots, velvet and gold lace belonging to chasubles and other vestments; as also the crook, rims, and joints of a beautiful crosier double gilt. In his introduction Alfred explains that he gathered together the laws he found in many "synod-books" and "ordered to be written many of the ones that our forefathers observed—those that pleased me; and many of the ones that did not please me, I rejected with the advice of my councillors, and commanded them to be observed in a different way". 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