Alfred the Great- a king who wanted to educate a nation

Born in 849, Alfred or Aelfred was king of Wessex (a Saxon kingdom located in the south east of England) from 871-899. The youngest of five boys, Alfred never thought he would succeed the throne, nor did he desire it. He is known as the king who saved us from Danish rule, but it is not as well known that he promoted learning and literacy in England.

His visits to Rome in the form of pilgrimages with his father inspired in him a love for the Latin word but also instilled in him moral and religious teachings which would later heavily influence his rule as king. Alfred translated many important Latin texts into English. He may have also been inspired by Charlemagne, king of the Franks, who had also revived learning in his own realm a while earlier. 

By many accounts, Alfred was a brave and intelligent man who valued wisdom and knowledge. He won many tough battles and was admired for his insight and courage on the battlefield and his ability to be a straightforward tactician.

The knowledge lost from the destruction of the monasteries by the Vikings led to the decline in literacy rates in the kingdom. Alfred, spurred on by his belief that all free Englishmen should be literate, set up a school at court which educated his sons, as well as the nobles and others of lesser birth. Many scholars from across Europe went to teach there.
Considered a compassionate and fair ruler, Alfred is the only English king to have the title ‘great’.


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