Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Death of Alfred the Great

Although the date of his death is known, the year is not; such is the obstinate reticence of history that things like these which cannot be known for certain aren't ever likely to be discovered either...

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketThe principle source of contemporary information about the life and exploits of the only English king ever to be granted the honorific 'the Great' is the notoriously inaccurate Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, which gives the year of his death as 901 CE. In fact, it isn't even known for certain when he was born, how many siblings he had, where or how he died.

The callous disregard history had for him in life is nothing compared to the disrespect it afforded him in death; originally buried in the Old Minster at his capital, Winchester, his bones were later moved to New Minster, thence to Hyde Abbey, and were either scattered by mistake in 1788 or else reburied outside Winchester's St. Bartholomew's Church in the 19th Century.

Yet Alfred the Great is remembered for fighting off the Danes, for uniting southern England into the Kingdom of Wessex, and for being the first to codify English law; he came 14th in a recent poll of the 100 Greatest Britons, and is credited by both the Royal Navy and the US Navy as the founder of their traditions.
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