Alfred the Great – First Israelite King of England

Another podcast with Sven and Patriart. The podcast can be found here:

Alfred the Great faced enormous troubles and hardships growing up and during his reign as King. His unwavering faith in Christianity and God helped him through. Under Alfred, England became a great kingdom and resisted the Pagan Danes. Eventually the Danes converted to Christianity.

Continuing on what we know about King Offa with a quote from Asser’s Life of King Arthur talking about his daughter and why the west Saxons would not suffer to have a queen rule over them:

King Offas daughter and why the Saxons refused to have a Queen (Asser’s Life of King Alfred 13 – 15)

13. – For the nation of the West Saxons does not allow the queen to sit beside the king, nor to be called queen, but only the king’s wife; which refusal, or rather reproach, the chief persons of that land say arose from a certain headstrong and malevolent queen of the nation, who did all things so contrary to her lord and to the whole people that not only did the hatred which she brought upon herself bring to pass her exclusion from the queenly throne, but also entailed the same corruption upon those who came after her, since, in consequence of the extreme malignity of that queen, all the inhabitants of the land banded themselves together by an oath never in their lives to let any king reign over them who should bid his queen take her seat on the royal throne by his side. And because, as I think it is not known to many whence this perverse and detestable custom first arose in Wessex, contrary to the custom of all the Germanic peoples, it seems to me right to explain it a little more fully, as I have heard it from my lord Alfred the truth-teller, King of the Anglo-Saxons, who often told me about it, as he also had heard it from many men of truth who related the fact, or, I should rather say, expressly preserved the remembrance of it.

14. Offa and Eadburh. —There was in Mercia in recent times a certain valiant king, who was dreaded by all the neighbouring kings and states. His name was Offa, and it was he who had the great dyke made from sea to sea between Wales and Mercia. His daughter, named Eadburh, was married to Beorhtric, King of the West Saxons. The moment she had possessed herself of the king’s good will, and practically the whole power of the realm, she began to live tyrannically, after the manner of her father. Every man whom Beorhtric loved she would execrate, and would do all things hateful to God and man, accusing to the king all whom she could, thus depriving them insidiously either of life or of power. And if she could not obtain the king’s consent, she used to take them off by poison, as is ascertained to have been the case with a certain young man beloved by the king, whom she poisoned, seeing that she could not accuse him to the king. It is said, moreover, that King Beorhtric unwittingly tasted of the poison, though the queen had intended to give it, not to him, but to the young man; the king, however, was beforehand with him, and so both perished.

15. Eadburh’s Further Life. — King Beorhtric therefore being dead, the queen, since she could no longer remain among the Saxons, sailed beyond the sea with countless treasures, and came to Charles, King of the Franks. As she stood before the throne, bringing many gifts to the king, Charles said to her: ‘ Choose, Eadburh, between me and my son, who stands with me on this dais.’ She, without deliberation, foolishly replied : ‘ If I am to have my choice, I choose your son, because he is younger than you.’ At which Charles smiled and answered: ‘ If you had chosen me, you should have had my son; but since you have chosen him, you shall have neither me nor him.’

However, he gave her a large convent of nuns, in which, having laid aside her secular habit, and assumed the dress worn by the nuns, she discharged the office of abbess for a few years. As she is said to have lived irrationally in her own country, so she appears to have acted much more so among a foreign people; for, being finally caught in illicit intercourse with a man of her own nation, she was expelled from the monastery by the order of King Charles. Henceforward she lived a life of shame, in poverty and misery until her death; so that at last, accompanied only by one slave, as I have heard from many who saw her, she begged her bread daily at Pavia, and so wretchedly died.

RW Morgan

Conan left the throne (in a.d. 817) to his sole daughter Esyllt (Isola) and through her to her husband Mervyn king of Man, prince of Powys, and count of Chester. The rest of the kingdom south of the Tweed (in a.d. 820) now began to be called Angland, Angleland,or England —whether from the Angles, thus ignoring the existence of the Saxons, or from some other cause, is not clear. The fusion of the various tribes within it ceasing to be known as Saxon, they all took the common designation among themselves of English. The Kymry however with characteristic pertinacity persist in retaining the names Lloegr and Saeson for them.
Egbert of West-Saxony was crowned (in a.d. 824) as Bret-walda, (or the wielder of Britain)—a dignity intended to represent the British Pendragonate, at Winchester. He defeated Mervyn at Llanvaes, in Anglesea, in 825, and in 835 wrested from him Chester, making it hence forth an English city. He destroyed all the old British monuments and statues, and made it death for a Kymro to be found on the east of the Dee. Mervyn fell in battle in a.d. 843, at Kettel, against Berthred of Mercia, and he was succeeded by his son Rhodri Mawr. Rhodri changed the seat of government from Carnarvon to Aberffraw. He fell in ad. 847, like his predecessor, in battle on the Menai, against the Danes, who were now pouring their forces in on every part of the British coasts.

Anarawd his son succeeded him. Egbert had settled Angle colonies in the country between Chester and Conway—hence called the Teg-engle. These were now exterminated by Anarawd and Hobart, prince of the Strathclyde Britons in the North, and the land occupied by them bestowed by Anarawd on the latter. Edred, duke of Mercia, leaguing with the Danes, attempted to wipe out this disgrace by invading Venedotia, but was utterly defeated by Anarawd with the loss of fifteen thousand men in the battle of Dial Mhodri, (Rhodri’s revenge,) at Cynwyd, near Conway. After the victory Anarawd carried his arms into England as far as Warwick, returning with immense booty.

In England Egbert the Bretwalda had been succeeded bv Ethelwulf —Ethelwulf by Ethelbald—Ethelbald by Ethelbert— and Ethelbert by Ethelred, who was succeeded in a.d. 871, by Alfred. The prime minister and biographer of Alfred was Asser (Geraint Vardd Glds), the bishop of St. Asaph. Alfred died a.d. 901.

Alfred the Great (Orthodox Wiki)

The holy and right-believing King Alfred the Great was the King of Wessex from 871 to 899. He successfully stopped the advance of the Danes into Anglo-Saxon England, unifying the country. In addition to being the unifier of Anglo-Saxon England in the face of the Danish invasion, Alfred was a promoter of education, father of English prose, a patron of the Church, and a reviver of monasticism in the country. He is the only English monarch to be accorded the epithet “the Great”. Alfred the Great is remembered on October 26.

Alfred was born in 849 in the village Wanating in what is now Wantage, Oxfordshire, the youngest son of King Aethelwulf of Wessex and his first wife, Osburga. Aethelwulf was a devout Christian, a trait that would reflect in Alfred’s life. It was during his youth that Bishop Asser tells the story of how as a child Alfred won a prize of a volume of poetry in English offered by his mother to the first of her children able to memorize it. Legend also has it that the young Alfred spent time in Ireland seeking healing. He was troubled by health problems throughout his life although today he is often portrayed as a great warrior who was noted more for his intellect.

Alfred’s Rearing (Asser’s Life of King Alfred 22 – 25)

22. Alfred’s Rearing. — He was extraordinarily beloved by both his father and mother, and indeed by all the people, beyond all his brothers ; in inseparable companionship with them he was reared at the royal court. As he advanced through the years of infancy and youth, he appeared more comely in person than his brothers, as in countenance, speech, and manners he was more pleasing than they. His noble birth and noble nature implanted in him from his cradle a love of wisdom above all things, even amid all the occupations of this present life ; but —with shame be it spoken ! —by the unworthy neglect of his parents and governors he remained illiterate till he was twelve years old or more, though by day and night he was an attentive listener to the Saxon poems which he often heard recited, and, being apt at learning, kept them in his memory. He was a zealous practiser of hunting in all its branches, and followed the chase with great assiduity and success ; for his skill and good fortune in this art, and in all the other gifts of God, were beyond those of every one else, as I have often witnessed.

23. Alfred and the Book of Saxon Poems. —Now on a certain day his mother was showing him and his brothers a book of Saxon poetry, which she held in her hand, and finally said: ‘Whichever of you can soonest learn this volume, to him will I give it.’ Stimulated by these words, or rather by divine inspiration, and allured by the beautifully illuminated letter at the beginning of the volume, (Alfred) spoke before all his brothers, who, though his seniors in age, were not so in grace, and answered his mother : ‘ Will you really give that book to that one of us who can first understand and repeat it to you ? ‘ At this his mother smiled with satisfaction, and confirmed what she had before said: *Yes,’ said she, ‘that I will.’ Upon this the boy took the book out of her hand, and went to his master and learned it by heart, whereupon he brought it back to his mother and recited it.

24. Alfred’s Handbook.”— After this he learned the daily course, that is the celebration of the hours, and afterwards certain Psalms, and many prayers, contained in a book which he kept day and night in his bosom, as I myself have seen, and always carried about with him, for the sake of prayer, through all the bustle and business of this present life. But, sad to relate, he could not gratify his ardent wish to acquire the liberal arts, because, as he was wont to say, there were at that time no good teachers in all the kingdom of the West Saxons.

25. Alfred’s Love of Learning. — This he would confess, with many lamentations and with sighs from the bottom of his heart, to have been one of his greatest difficulties and impediments in this present life, that when he was young and had leisure and capacity for learning, he had no masters ; but when he was more advanced in years, he was continually occupied, not to say harassed, day and night, by so many diseases unknown to all the physicians of this island, as well as by internal and external anxieties of sovereignty, and by invasions of the heathen by sea and land, that though he then had some store of teachers and writers, it was quite impossible for him to study. But yet among the impediments of this present life, from childhood to the present day [and, as I believe, even until his death], he has continued to feel the same insatiable desire.

Alfred’s ailments that appear at his wedding and his earlier prayer for piles (Asser’s Life of King Alfred 74)

74. Alfred’s Maladies. —While his nuptials were being honourably celebrated in Mercia, among innumerable multitudes of both sexes, and after long feasts by night and by day, he was suddenly seized, in the presence of all the people, by instant and overwhelming pain, unknown to any physician. No one there knew, nor even those who daily see him up to the present time —and this, sad to say, is the worst of all, that it should have continued uninterruptedly through the revolutions of so many years, from the twentieth to the fortieth year of his life and more —whence such a malady arose. Many thought that it was occasioned by the favour and fascination of the people who surrounded him ; others, by some spite of the devil, who is ever jealous of good men ; others, from an unusual kind of fever ; while still others thought it was due to the piles, because he had suffered this particular agonizing irritation even from his youth.

On a certain occasion it had come to pass by the divine will that when he had gone to Cornwall on a hunting expedition, and had turned out of the road to pray in a certain church in which rests Saint Gueriir [and now also St. Neot reposes there], he had of his own accord prostrated himself for a long time in silent prayer —since from childhood he had been a frequent visitor of holy places for prayer and the giving of alms —and there he besought the mercy of the Lord that,in his boundless clemency, Almighty God would exchange the torments of the malady which then afflicted him, for some other lighter disease, provided that such disease should not show itself outwardly in his body, lest he should be useless and despised — for he had great dread of leprosy or blindness, or any such complaint as instantly makes men useless and despised at its coming.

When he had finished his praying, he proceeded on his journey, and not long after felt within himself that he had been divinely healed, according to his request, of that disorder, and that it was entirely eradicated, although he had obtained even this complaint in the first flower of his youth by his devout and frequent prayers and supplications to God. For if I may be allowed to speak concisely, though in a some what inverted order, of his zealous piety to God —in his earliest youth, before he married his wife, he wished to establish his mind in God’s commandments, for he perceived that he could not abstain from carnal desires; and because he saw that he should incur the anger of God if he did anything contrary to His will, he used often to rise at cock-crow and at the matin hours, and go to pray in churches and at the relics of the saints. There he would prostrate himself, and pray that Almighty God in His mercy would strengthen his mind still more in the love of His service, converting it fully to Himself by some infirmity such as he might bear, but not such as would render him contemptible and useless in worldly affairs.

Now when he had often prayed with much devotion to this effect, after an interval of some time he incurred as a gift from God, the before named disease of the piles, which he bore long and painfully for many years, even despairing of life, until he entirely got rid of it by prayer. But, sad to say, though it had been removed, a worse one seized him, as I have said, at his marriage, and this incessantly tormented him, night and day, from the twentieth to the forty-fifth year of his life. But if ever, by God’s mercy, he was relieved from this infirmity for a single day or night, or even for the space of one hour, yet the fear and dread of that terrible malady never left him, but rendered him almost useless, as he thought, in every affair, whether human or divine.

Alfred’s family (Ortho-wiki)

As the youngest of the four sons of King Aethelwulf, the young Alfred lived in their shadows. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle mentions that Pope Leo IV “anointed him as king” during a pilgrimage to Rome about the year 853, a possible misinterpretation of an investiture as “consul” during the pilgrimage by King Aethelwulf and Alfred in the years 854-855. During the disputes between the king and Alfred’s older brothers and the reigns of Aethelbald and Aethelberht, Alfred is not mentioned. King Aethelwulf died in 858.

It was following the accession of his third brother, Aethelred of Wessex, in 866, that Alfred’s public life began. Fighting beside his brother Aethelred, in 868, Alfred fought unsuccessfully attempting to keep the invading Danes, led by Ivar the Boneless, out of the adjoining Kingdom of Mercia. Then in late 870, with the arrival of the Danes in his homeland, Alfred became involved in nine battles with varying outcomes. Thus, the year 870 was the low-water mark in the history of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. Only Wessex remained to resist as all the other kingdoms having fallen to the Vikings.

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