"Created" England. Reigned 871-901. He had a military victory against the Danes, founded and supported schools, sponsored the translation of many books from Latin to English (also translated from other dialects to his English, West Saxon), and instituted a chronicle of current events (Anglo-Saxon Chronicle). His prior military accomplishment was holding back the Vikings.

He did not Hold Back the Rain.

King Alfred (the Great) ruled Wessex in the late 9th century (871-899) following on from his father Aethelwulf and his three brothers, he had to contend with a the new attacks from Vikings. The attacks had shifted from pillaging to settling. He did incredibly well against these large groups of Vikings hoping to usurp his territory relative to other kings for a number of reasons: cunning military organization, necessary political compromises with the Vikings, and great political leadership.

For saving Wessex from the Vikings he was accorded the title great, but he was also great in his raising of the intellectual levels of his people. This was linked with his success against the Vikings, since many of the writings and translations made by his court acted as propaganda for his political campaign. This propaganda's main purpose was to group his people together against the foreign enemy of the Vikings, a tactic seen all too often in the modern political world but a diamond in the rough of the Dark Ages.

The survival of Alfred's Wessex probably hinged on the suspected paying of 'Danegeld' money to the Vikings. The evidence for these comes from archaeological sites in London where stores of Alfredian money were found in Viking land. In any case, this did not stop the Vikings completely but gave Alfred enough time to put military reforms into action.

The second main compromise of Alfred's regime was after his first major victory at Eddington, near modern Chippenham, where Alfred offered the defeated Viking Guthrum a large portion of England in exchange for peace and Guthrum's conversion to Christianity.

Alfred The Great, 849 A.D. to 887 A.D. - First King of England

Born in what is now Wantage, Berkshire to King Aethelwulf and his wife Osburh, of the royal house of the Jutes of Wight, Alfred was the youngest of five sons born to the King and Queen. At the age of four Alfred was sent by his father to be instructed by Pope Leo IV in Rome, and revisited the city with his father two years later to be confirmed in the Church.

At his fathers behest the kingship was passed down the line of brothers, rather than risk handing the crown to an underage child at a time when the country was coming under increasing attack by Viking raiders from Denmark. The Danes had already conquered East Anglia and Mercia, and their kings were either tortured to death or fled. The Danes then turned their attentions to Wessex, the sole surviving independent Saxon kingdom.

Upon the death of his elder brother King Aethelred shortly after the Battle of Ashdown in 871, Alfred ascended to the throne to become King of the West Saxons, and decided to give way to the more powerful Norse raiders and pay a form of taxation, known as 'Danegeld', essentially ensuring that Wessex could remain independent, as long as they paid for the privilege.

This peace lasted for some time, but in early 878, the Danes led by King Guthrum seized the settlement of Chippenham in Wiltshire, and drove the local populace from the surrounding area. With only his royal bodyguard, a small army of followers and the earl of Somerset as his ally, Alfred withdrew to the Athelney tidal marshes in Somerset, which he knew well from his childhood. It is here that the apocryphal story of 'Alfred and the griddle-cakes' allegedly took place. According to the 12th-century Chronicle of St Neot's, Alfred was in so much danger that he was forced to travel anonymously and sought lodging in a peasant woman's hut. Told to mind the cakes cooking on the fire, Alfred let his thoughts wander to his troubles, and possible solutions to the predicament his country was in. In his absent-mindedness, the cakes burned, and the peasant woman gave her king a good scolding for his carelessness.

Burnt cakes or not, Alfred spent his time in the marshes productively, gathering allies and fighting a guerrilla war against the occupying forces, which culminated in the 878 Battle of Edington, where his forces went up against a more powerful Viking force and routed them. Despite this seemingly decisive victory, the next few years were filled with minor skirmishes with the Danes, leading Alfred to attempt a more lasting solution

In 886, Alfred took the initiative himself and attacked the Danish-held city of London in an attempt to reduce the number of lands ruled under the Danelaw. the King realised that he alone couldn't drive the Vikings from the island, and instead drew up the treaty of Wedmore. Under the terms of the treaty King Guthrum was converted to Christianity with Alfred as godfather and the pair partitioned the island along the line of the old Roman Watling Street. This treaty gave Alfred control of the old lands of Wessex as well as areas of West Mercia and Kent, and the Danes the north and east of the country. Alfred strengthened his ties with these other regions which came under his control with a series of strategic marriages, and developed a series of fortifications and Britains first navy to guard against any continuation of Viking aggression.

After successfully bringing peace to the region with his military deeds, Alfred attempted to repair the damage wrought by years of war which had all but destroyed the cultural life of his people. He translated Boethius' Consolations of Philosophy and Pastoral Care by Pope Gregory I into Old English, encouraged learning and the keeping of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, and he also established a code of law, which provisioned for the protection of the rights of ordinary citizens.

Alfred died in 899 and was succeeded by his eldest some Edward the Elder. He was buried at the Abbey in his capital city, Winchester, the burial place of the West Saxon royal family.

Despite the fact that he only ruled around a quarter of the land which is now considered 'England', he laid the foundations on which the country grew. It is for this reason that he is the only English monarch in history to carry the title "the Great."

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