Alfred, more famously known as King Alfred the Great, ruled Wessex from 871 to 886.
He was the first ruler who was able to unite different Anglo-Saxon kingdoms into a single entity. Alfred ruled as King of Anglo-Saxons from 886 to 889.
He was the son of King Aethelwulf of Wessex.
Alfred fought several battles with the Vikings and defeated them in 878 in the Battle of Edington.
His legal and other reforms were aimed to increase the quality of life of his people. He also improved the structure of the army and ushered in reforms to significantly improve the defenses of England against external invasions and threats.
There were a lot of raids by Vikings on England in the 8th century. According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the first confrontation of Danes in England was in 787.
The first raid by Vikings was at Lindisfarne in 793. The Vikings attacked the monastery. This event shook the whole of Europe because this monastery was considered very sacred in the Christian World.
In the 9th century, the Great Heathen Army of the Vikings arrived in England to invade the country. After resting in East Anglia, the Army marched to the Kingdom of Mercia.
The Northumbrians paid the tribute, so Vikings appointed a puppet leader in Northumbria.
The King of Mercia sought help from the King of Wessex against the Great Army.
A siege was Nottingham resulted in no result, so Mercians paid tribute. Only Alfred the Great was able to put up an effective resistance against this army.
The system of Burhs was a defense system of Alfred’s military reforms. Thirty-three Burhs were constructed at a distance of 19 miles from each other. This enabled the Army to attack anywhere in the kingdom within a day.
The burhs ranged in size from a small outpost to a large fortification. The food and other goods were provided by the people living in or near burhs.
Many burhs were connected to each other by a fortified bridge. The roads were built to connect burhs.
This helped the Army to move swiftly. These burhs helped Anglo-Saxons to limit Danes to the outer frontiers of Wessex and Mercia.
In 896, Alfred ordered the construction of a small fleet due to threats of Vikings from the sea. These ships were twice the size of Viking ships. Apart from the size, they were swifter, rode higher in the water, and steadier than Frisian or Danish ships.
They were designed to fight, not for navigational purposes.
Alfred was a very visionary ruler. He had a plan to intercept raiding Viking fleet before they landed to raid. But the size of Alfred’s ships was too large for rivers.
After getting the crown in 871, Alfred had to face the threat of Viking attacks. He made peace with Vikings on terms that they would leave Wessex. The Vikings went but started raids again.
The battle of Edington in 878 was a crucial battle of King Alfred in which he defeated Vikings. This paved his path to becoming the first Anglo-Saxon king of united England
We hope you enjoyed this article on Alfred the Great and discovered how he helped to defend England from the invading Vikings if you would like to learn more about Alfred the great or the vikings please see our other Anglo Saxon articles at the bottom of this page.