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 famously fought several battles with the Vikings and defeated them in 878 in the Battle of Edington.
King Alfred was the one who encouraged people to be educated in the Anglo-Saxon language rather than Latin.
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 in England in the 8th century. According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the first confrontation with 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 King of Mercia sought help from the King of Wessex against the Great Army.
Only Alfred the Great was able to put up an effective resistance against this vicious Viking heathen army.
A system of Burhs (Boroughs) was a defensive system devised and implemented because of Alfred the Great’s military reforms.
Thirty-three Burhs were constructed at a distance of 19 miles from each other.
This enabled Anglo-Saxon Army warriors to be able to defend anywhere in the Anglo-Saxon kingdom within a day.
The burhs ranged in size from small outposts to large fortifications. 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 Anglo-Saxon army to move swiftly. These burhs helped Anglo-Saxons to limit the Danes’ encroaching settlements 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 the raiding Viking fleet before they landed to raid. But the size of Alfred’s ships was too large for rivers.
After being crowned in 871, Alfred had to face the threat of Viking attacks again. He had made peace with Vikings on terms that they would leave Wessex. The Vikings went but started raiding again.
The battle of Edington in 878 was a crucial battle for King Alfred in which he defeated the 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.