Biography of King Alfred "The Great" of Wessex 849-899

Paternal Family Tree: Wessex

Descendants Family Tree: King Alfred "The Great" of Wessex 849-899

853 Battle of the Isle of Thanet

858 Death of King Æthelwulf

871 Battle of Wilton

871 Battle of Ashdown

871 Battle of Reading

871 Battle of Basing

871 Battle of Merton

878 Battle of Edington

878 Treaty of Wedmore

894 Battle of Farnham

899 Death of King Alfred the Great

In or before 838 [his father] King Æthelwulf of Wessex and [his mother] Osburgh Queen Consort Wessex were married. She by marriage Queen Consort Wessex. He the son of Egbert King Wessex (age 64).

In 839 [his grandfather] Egbert King Wessex (age 66) died. His son [his father] King Æthelwulf of Wessex succeeded King Wessex.

In 849 King Alfred "The Great" of Wessex was born to King Æthelwulf of Wessex and Osburgh Queen Consort Wessex at Wantage, Berkshire.

Assers Life of Alfred 849. 849. 1. Alfred's Birth and Genealogy.1 In the year of our Lord's incarnation 849, Alfred, King of the Anglo-Saxons, was born at the royal vill of Wantage, in Berkshire (which receives its name from Berroc Wood, where the box-tree grows very abundantly). His genealogy is traced in the following order: King Alfred was the son of King Æthelwulf; he of Egbert; he of Ealhmund; he of Eafa; he of Eoppa; he of Ingild. Ingild and Ine, the famous king of the West Saxons, were two brothers. Ine went to Rome, and there ending the present life honorably, entered into the heavenly fatherland to reign with Christ. Ingild and Ine were the sons of Cœnred; he of Ceolwald; he of Cutha2; he of Cuthwine; he of Ceawlin; he of Cynric; he of Creoda; he of Cerdic; he of Elesa; [he of Esla;] he of Gewis, from whom the Welsh name all that people Gegwis3; [he of Wig; he of Freawine; he of Freothegar;] he of Brond; he of Beldeag; he of Woden; he of Frithowald; he of Frealaf; he of Frithuwulf; he of Finn[; he of] Godwulf; he of Geata, which Geta the heathen long worshiped as a god. Sedulius makes mention of him in his metrical Paschal Poem, as follows:

If heathen poets rave o'er fancied woe,

While in a turgid stream their numbers flow

Whether the tragic buskin tread the stage,

Or waggish Geta all our thoughts engage;

If by the art of song they still revive

The taint of ill, and bid old vices live;

If monumental guilt they sing, and lies

Commit to books in magisterial wise;

Why may not I, who list to David's lyre,

And reverent stand amid the hallowed choir,

Hymn heavenly things in words of tranquil tone,

And tell the deeds of Christ in accents all my own?

Note 1. Based on the Chronicle under 855.

Note 2. MS. Cudam. So always, but see the Chronicle.

Note 3. Bede, Eccl. Hist. 3. 7: 'The West Saxons, formerly called Gewissae.' Plummer comments in his edition, 2. 89: 'It is probably connected with the "visi" of "Visigoths," meaning "west," and hence would indicate the western confederation of Saxon tribes; ... "Gewis" is probably an eponymous hero manufactured out of the tribe-name.' The gw of Gegwis is a Welsh peculiarity (Stevenson).

In 853 King Alfred "The Great" of Wessex (age 4) was confirmed by Pope Leo IV at Rome, Italy.

Assers Life of Alfred 853. 853. 8. Alfred at Rome.20 In that same year [his father] King Æthelwulf sent his above-named son Alfred (age 4) to Rome, with an honorable escort both of nobles and commoners. Pope Leo at that time presided over the apostolic see, and he anointed as king21 the aforesaid child22 Alfred (age 4) in the town, and, adopting him as his son, confirmed him.23

Note 20. Based upon the Chronicle.

Note 21. MS. in regem.

Note 22. MS. infantem.

Note 23. 'A letter from the pope to Alfred's father, regarding the ceremony at Rome, has been fortunately preserved for us in a twelfth-century collection of papal letters, now in the British Museum.... The letter is as follows: "Edeluulfo, regi Anglorum [marginal direction for rubricator]. ilium vestrum Erfred, quem hoc in tempore ad Sanctorum Apostolorum limina destinare curastis, benigne suscepimus, et, quasi spiritalem filium consulatus cingulo honore vestimentisque, ut mos est Romanis consulibus, decoravimus, eo quod in nostris se tradidit manibus"' (Stevenson). The Chronicle has: '... consecrated him as king, and took him as bishop-son.' See p. 29.

Battle of the Isle of Thanet

Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. 853. This year Burhred, King of Mercia, with his council, besought [his father] King Ethelwulf to assist him to subdue North-Wales. He did so; and with an army marched over Mercia into North-Wales, and made all the inhabitants subject to him. The same year King Ethelwulf sent his son Alfred to Rome (age 4); and Leo, who was then pope, consecrated him king, and adopted him as his spiritual son. The same year also Elchere with the men of Kent, and Huda with the men of Surrey, fought in the Isle of Thanet [Map] with the heathen army, and soon obtained the victory; but there were many men slain and drowned on either hand, and both the aldermen killed. Burhred, the Mercian king, about this time received in marriage the [his sister] daughter (age 15) of Ethelwulf, king of the West-Saxons.

Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. 854. This year the heathen men34 for the first time remained over winter in the Isle of Shepey [Map]. The same year [his father] King Ethelwulf registered a TENTH of his land over all his kingdom for the honour of God and for his own everlasting salvation. The same year also he went to Rome with great pomp, and was resident there a twelvemonth. Then he returned homeward; and Charles, king of the Franks (age 30), gave him his daughter, whose name was [his step-mother] Judith (age 10), to be his queen. After this he came to his people, and they were fain to receive him; but about two years after his residence among the Franks he died; and his body lies at Winchester. He reigned eighteen years and a half. And Ethelwulf was the son of Egbert, Egbert of Ealhmund, Ealhmund of Eafa, Eafa of Eoppa, Eoppa of Ingild; Ingild was the brother of Ina, king of the West-Saxons, who held that kingdom thirty-seven winters, and afterwards went to St. Peter, where he died. And they were the sons of Cenred, Cenred of Ceolwald, Ceolwald of Cutha, Cutha of Cuthwin, Cuthwin of Ceawlin, Ceawlin of Cynric, Cynric of Creoda, Creoda of Cerdic, Cerdic of Elesa, Elesa of Esla, Esla of Gewis, Gewis of Wig, Wig of Freawine, Freawine of Frithugar, Frithugar of Brond, Brond of Balday, Balday of Woden, Woden of Frithuwald, Frithuwald of Freawine, Freawine of Frithuwualf, Frithuwulf of Finn, Finn of Godwulf, Godwulf of Great, Great of Taetwa, Taetwa of Beaw, Beaw of Sceldwa, Sceldwa of Heremod, Heremod of Itermon, Itermon of Hathra, Hathra of Hwala, Hwala of Bedwig, Bedwig of Sceaf; that is, the son of Noah, who was born in Noah's ark: Laznech, Methusalem, Enoh, Jared, Malalahel, Cainion, Enos, Seth, Adam the first man, and our Father, that is, Christ. Amen. Then two sons of Ethelwulf succeeded to the kingdom; [his brother] Ethelbald to Wessex, and [his brother] Ethelbert to Kent, Essex, Surrey, and Sussex. Ethelbald reigned five years. Alfred (age 5), his third son, Ethelwulf had sent to Rome; and when the pope heard say that he was dead, he consecrated Alfred (age 5) king, and held him under spiritual hands, as his father Ethelwulf had desired, and for which purpose he had sent him thither.

Note 34. i.e. the Danes; or, as they are sometimes called, Northmen, which is a general term including all those numerous tribes that issued at different times from the north of Europe, whether Danes, Norwegians, Sweons, Jutes, or Goths, etc.; who were all in a state of paganism at this time.

Around 855 King Alfred "The Great" of Wessex (age 6) visited the court of Charles "Bald" I King West Francia (age 31).

In 856 [his father] King Æthelwulf of Wessex and [his step-mother] Judith Carolingian Queen Consort Wessex (age 12) were married. She by marriage Queen Consort Wessex. She the daughter of Charles "Bald" I King West Francia (age 32) and Ermentrude Orléans Queen Consort West Francia. He the son of Egbert King Wessex.

Death of King Æthelwulf

On 13 Jan 858 [his father] King Æthelwulf of Wessex died. His son [his brother] King Æthelbald of Wessex succeeded King Wessex.

In 868 King Alfred "The Great" of Wessex (age 19) and Æalhswith of Mercia Queen Consort of England were married at Gainsborough [Map]. She the daughter of Æthelred Mucel Mercia Earldorman Gaini and Eadburh of Mercia. He the son of King Æthelwulf of Wessex and Osburgh Queen Consort Wessex.

Assers Life of Alfred 868. 868. 30. The Danes at Nottingham.71 In that same year the above-named army of heathen, leaving Northumbria, invaded Mercia, and advanced to Nottingham [Map], which is called in Welsh Tigguocobauc72, but in Latin 'The House of Caves,' and wintered there that same year. Immediately on their approach, Burgred, King of the Mercians, and all the nobles of that nation, sent messengers to [his brother] Æthelred (age 21)73, King of the West Saxons, and his brother Alfred (age 19), entreating them to come and aid them in fighting against the aforesaid army. Their request was readily granted; for the brothers, as soon as promised, assembled an immense army from every part of their [realm], and, entering Mercia, came to Nottingham [Map], all eager for battle. When now the heathen, defended by the castle, refused to fight, and the Christians were unable to destroy the wall, peace was made between the Mercians and the heathen, and the two brothers, Æthelred (age 21) and Alfred, returned home with their troops.

Note 71. Largely from the Chronicle.

Note 72. 'A compound of tig (Modern Welsh tŷ, "house"), and guocobauc (Modern Welsh gogofawg), an adjective derived from gogof, "cave." ... The name ... is certainly applicable to Nottingham [Map], which has long been famous for the houses excavated out of the soft sandstone upon which it stands' (Stevenson). The word Nottingham itself, however, has not this meaning.

Note 73. Here and elsewhere in the text often spelled Æthered.

Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. 868. This year the same army went into Mercia to Nottingham [Map], and there fixed their winter-quarters; and Burhred, king of the Mercians, with his council, besought [his brother] Ethered, king of the West-Saxons (age 21), and Alfred (age 19), his brother; that they would assist them in fighting against the army. And they went with the West-Saxon army into Mercia as far as Nottingham, and there meeting the army on the works, they beset them within. But there was no heavy fight; for the Mercians made peace with the army.

Around 870 [his daughter] Æthelflæd Lady of the Mercians was born to King Alfred "The Great" of Wessex (age 21) and [his wife] Æalhswith of Mercia Queen Consort of England.

Battle of Ashdown

Assers Life of Alfred 871. 871. 38. Alfred begins the Attack.85 Now the Christians had determined that [his brother] King Æthelred (age 24), with his men, should attack the two heathen kings, and that his brother Alfred (age 22), with his troops, should take the chance of war against all the leaders of the heathen. Things being so arranged on both sides, the king still continued a long time in prayer, and the heathen, prepared for battle, had hastened to the field. Then Alfred (age 22), though only second in command, could no longer support the advance of the enemy, unless he either retreated or charged upon them without waiting for his brother. At length, with the rush of a wild boar, he courageously led the Christian troops against the hostile army, as he had already designed, for, although the king had not yet arrived, he relied upon God's counsel and trusted to His aid. Hence, having closed up his shield-wall in due order, he straightway advanced his standards against the foe. [At length King Æthelred (age 24), having finished the prayers in which he was engaged, came up, and, having invoked the King of the universe, entered upon the engagement.]86

Note 85. All original except final clause.

Note 86. Supplied by Stevenson from Florence of Worcester.

Assers Life of Alfred 871. 871. 37. Battle of Ashdown.80 Roused by this grief and shame, the Christians, after four days, with all their forces and much spirit advanced to battle against the aforesaid army, at a place called Ashdown81, which in Latin signifies 'Ash's82 Hill.' The heathen, forming in two divisions, arranged two shield-walls of similar size; and since they had two kings and many ealdormen, they gave the middle83 part of the army to the two kings, and the other part to all the ealdormen. The Christians, perceiving this, divided their army also into two troops, and with no less zeal formed shield-walls.84 But Alfred (age 22), as I have been told by truthful eye-witnesses, marched up swiftly with his men to the battle-field; for [his brother] King Æthelred (age 24) had remained a long time in his tent in prayer, hearing mass, and declaring that he would not depart thence alive till the priest had done, and that he was not disposed to abandon the service of God for that of men; and according to these sentiments he acted. This faith of the Christian king availed much with the Lord, as I shall show more fully in the sequel.

Note 80. Chiefly from the Chronicle.

Note 81. The Berkshire Downs (Stevenson).

Note 82. Stevenson is convinced that Æscesdun, though interpreted as 'mons fraxini,' cannot mean 'the hill of the ash,' but that Ash is here a man's name.

Note 83. Perhaps mediam is a scribal error for unam or primam (Stevenson).

Note 84. There is a note on the Germanic shield-wall in my edition of Judith (305ª), in the Belles Lettres Series.

Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. 08 Jan 871. And about four nights after this, [his brother] King Ethered (age 24) and Alfred (age 22) his brother fought with all the army on Ashdown, and the Danes were overcome. They had two heathen kings, Bagsac and Healfden, and many earls; and they were in two divisions; in one of which were Bagsac and Healfden, the heathen kings, and in the other were the earls. King Ethered (age 24) therefore fought with the troops of the kings, and there was King Bagsac slain; and Alfred (age 24) his brother fought with the troops of the earls, and there were slain Earl Sidrac the elder, Earl Sidrac the younger, Earl Osbern, Earl Frene, and Earl Harold. They put both the troops to flight; there were many thousands of the slain, and they continued fighting till night.

On 08 Jan 871 King Alfred "The Great" of Wessex (age 22) defeated the Viking army led by Halfdan Ragnarsson at the Battle of Ashdown in Berkshire. Bagsecg Viking was killed.

Battle of Wilton

Assers Life of Alfred 871. 871. 42. Alfred comes to the Throne; Battle of Wilton.94 That same year the aforesaid Alfred (age 22), who had been up to that time, during the lifetime of his brothers, only of secondary rank, now, on the death of his brother, by God's permission undertook the government of the whole kingdom, amid the acclamations of all the people; and indeed, if he had chosen, he might easily have done so with the general consent whilst his brother above named was still alive, since in wisdom and every other good quality he surpassed all his brothers, and especially because he was brave and victorious in nearly every battle. And when he had reigned a month almost against his will - for he did not think that he alone, without divine aid, could sustain the ferocity of the heathen, though even during his brothers' lifetimes he had borne the calamities of many - he fought a fierce battle with a few men, and on very unequal terms, against all the army of the heathen, at a hill called Wilton [Map], on the south bank of the river Wiley95, from which river the whole of that shire is named; and after a severe engagement, lasting a considerable part of the day, the heathen, seeing the whole extent of the danger they were in, and no longer able to bear the attack of their enemies, turned their backs and fled. But, shame to say, they took advantage of their pursuers' rashness96, and, again rallying, gained the victory and kept the battle-field. Let no one be surprised that the Christians had but a small number of men, for the Saxons as a people had been all but worn out by eight battles in this selfsame year against the heathen, in which there died one king, nine chieftains, and innumerable troops of soldiers, not to speak of countless skirmishes both by night and by day, in which the oft-named [King] Alfred (age 22), and all the leaders of that people, with their men, and many of the king's thanes, had been engaged in unwearied strife against the heathen. How many thousand heathen fell in these numberless skirmishes God alone knows, over and above those who were slain in the eight battles above mentioned.

Note 94. Paraphrased and amplified from the Chronicle.

Note 95. A tributary of the Nadder, which it joins near Wilton [Map].

Note 96. Or, perhaps, 'fewness,' reading paucitatem for peraudacitatem (Stevenson).

Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Around Apr 871. And within a month of this, King Alfred (age 22) fought against all the Army with a small force at Wilton, and long pursued them during the day; but the Danes got possession of the field. This year were nine general battles fought with the army in the kingdom south of the Thames; besides those skirmishes, in which Alfred the king's brother, and every single alderman, and the thanes of the king, oft rode against them; which were accounted nothing. This year also were slain nine earls, and one king; and the same year the West-Saxons made peace with the army.

Assers Life of Alfred 871. 871. 36. Battle of Reading.77 Four days afterwards, [his brother] King Æthelred (age 24) and his brother Alfred (age 22), uniting their forces and assembling an army, marched to Reading, where, on their arrival at the castle gate, they cut to pieces and overthrew the heathen whom they found outside the fortifications. But the heathen fought no less valiantly and, rushing like wolves out of every gate, waged battle with all their might. Both sides fought long and fiercely, but at last, sad to say, the Christians turned their backs, the heathen obtained the victory and held the battle-field, the aforesaid Ealdorman Æthelwulf (age 46) being among the slain.

Note 77. Chiefly from the Chronicle.

In 871 [his brother] King Æthelred of Wessex (age 24) was buried at Wimborne Minster, Dorset [Map]. King Alfred "The Great" of Wessex (age 22) succeeded King England. [his wife] Æalhswith of Mercia Queen Consort of England by marriage Queen Consort England.

Battle of Reading

Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. 04 Jan 871. About four nights after this, [his brother] King Ethered (age 24) and Alfred (age 22) his brother led their main army to Reading, where they fought with the enemy; and there was much slaughter on either hand, Alderman Ethelwulf (age 46) being among the skain; but the Danes kept possession of the field.

On 04 Jan 871 [his brother] King Æthelred of Wessex (age 24) and Alfred the Great's (age 22) army attacked, but were repulsed by, the Viking army at Battle of Reading at Reading, Berkshire [Map]. Æthelwulf Mercia Earldorman Berkshire (age 46) was killed.

Battle of Basing

Assers Life of Alfred 871. 22 Jan 871. 40. Battle of Basing.89 After90 fourteen days had elapsed [his brother] King Æthelred (age 24) and his brother Alfred (age 22) joined their forces, and marched to Basing91 to fight with the heathen. Having thus assembled, battle was joined, and they held their own for a long time, but the heathen gained the victory, and held possession of the battle-field. After this fight, another army of heathen came from beyond sea, and joined them.

Note 89. From the Chronicle.

Note 90. Before this sentence occurs the following in the Latin: Quibus cum talia præsentis vitæ dispendia alienigenis perperam quærentibus non sufficerent. This may represent a sentence in the author's draft that was intended, owing to change of construction, to be omitted (Stevenson).

Note 91. In Hampshire.

Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Around 22 Jan 871. Within a fortnight of this, [his brother] King Ethered (age 24) and Alfred (age 22) his brother fought with the army at Basing; and there the Danes had the victory.

Battle of Merton

Around 22 Mar 871 Halfdan Ragnarsson defeated the Wessex army led by [his brother] King Æthelred of Wessex (age 24) and King Alfred "The Great" of Wessex (age 22) at the Battle of Merton. The location of 'Marton' is not known; suggestions include Marden, Wiltshire in Wiltshire and Winterborne St Martin, Dorset. Bishop Heahmund of Wessex was killed.

Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Around 22 Mar 871. About two months after this, [his brother] King Ethered (age 24) and Alfred (age 22) his brother fought with the army at Marden. They were in two divisions; and they put them both to flight, enjoying the victory for some time during the day; and there was much slaughter on either hand; but the Danes became masters of the field; and there was slain Bishop Heahmund, with many other good men. After this fight came a vast army in the summer to Reading. And after the Easter of this year died King Ethered (age 24). He reigned five years, and his body lies at Winburn-minster [Map]. Then Alfred (age 22), his brother, the son of Ethelwulf, took to the kingdom of Wessex.

Around 874 [his son] King Edward "Elder" of the Anglo Saxons was born to King Alfred "The Great" of Wessex (age 25) and [his wife] Æalhswith of Mercia Queen Consort of England.

Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. 875. This year went the army from Repton [Map]; and Healfden advanced with some of the army against the Northumbrians, and fixed his winter-quarters by the river Tine. The army then subdued that land, and oft invaded the Picts and the Strathclydwallians. Meanwhile the three kings, Guthrum, Oskytel, and Anwind, went from Repton [Map] to Cambridge with a vast army, and sat there one year. This summer King Alfred (age 26) went out to sea with an armed fleet, and fought with seven ship-rovers, one of whom he took, and dispersed the others.

Assers Life of Alfred 875. 875. 48. Alfred's Battle at Sea.106 In that same year King Alfred (age 26) fought a battle at sea against six ships of the heathen, and took one of them, the rest escaping by flight.

Note 106. From the Chronicle.

Assers Life of Alfred 876. 876. 49. Movements of the Danes.107 In the year of our Lord's incarnation 876, being the twenty-eighth year of King Alfred's (age 27) life, the oft-mentioned army of the heathen, leaving Cambridge by night, entered a fortress called Wareham, Dorset [Map]108, where there is a monastery of nuns between the two rivers Froom [and Tarrant], in the district which is called in Welsh Durngueir109, but in Saxon Thornsæta110, placed in a most secure location, except on the western side, where there was a territory adjacent. With this army Alfred (age 27) made a solemn treaty to the effect that they should depart from him, and they made no hesitation to give him as many picked hostages as he named; also they swore an oath on all the relics in which King Alfred (age 27) trusted next to God111, and on which they had never before sworn to any people, that they would speedily depart from his kingdom. But they again practised their usual treachery, and caring nothing for either hostages or oath, they broke the treaty, and, sallying forth by night, slew all the horsemen [horses?] that they had112, and, turning off, started without warning for another place called in Saxon Exanceastre [Map], and in Welsh Cairwisc, which means in Latin 'The City [of Exe],' situated on the eastern bank of the river Wisc113, near the southern sea which divides Britain from Gaul, and there passed the winter.

Note 107. Chiefly from the Chronicle.

Note 108. In Dorsetshire.

Note 109. Dorchester.

Note 110. For the usual Dornsæte.

Note 111. Here the Chronicle. has 'on the holy arm-ring,' on which the Danes, it would seem, were accustomed to swear.

Note 112. Here the Chronicle has: 'They, the mounted army, stole away from the fierd [the English forces] in the night into Exeter.' This, of course, is the true account, while the statement in Asser is incredible.

Note 113. Exe.

Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. 877. This year came the Danish army into Exeter [Map] from Wareham [Map]; whilst the navy sailed west about, until they met with a great mist at sea, and there perished one hundred and twenty ships at Swanwich.36 Meanwhile King Alfred (age 28) with his army rode after the cavalry as far as Exeter; but he could not overtake them before their arrival in the fortress, where they could not be come at. There they gave him as many hostages as he required, swearing with solemn oaths to observe the strictest amity. In the harvest the army entered Mercia; some of which they divided among them, and some they gave to Ceolwulf.

Note 36. It is now generally written, as pronounced, "Swanage".

Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. 878. This year about mid-winter, after twelfth-night, the Danish army stole out to Chippenham [Map], and rode over the land of the West-Saxons; where they settled, and drove many of the people over sea; and of the rest the greatest part they rode down, and subdued to their will;-ALL BUT ALFRED THE KING (age 29). He, with a little band, uneasily sought the woods and fastnesses of the moors. And in the winter of this same year the brother of Ingwar and Healfden landed in Wessex, in Devonshire, with three and twenty ships, and there was he slain, and eight hundred men with him, and forty of his army. There also was taken the war-flag, which they called the RAVEN. In the Easter of this year King Alfred (age 29) with his little force raised a work at Athelney [Map]; from which he assailed the army, assisted by that part of Somersetshire which was nighest to it.

Assers Life of Alfred 878. 878. 55. Alfred at Athelney.123 The same year, after Easter, King Alfred (age 29), with a few men, made a stronghold in a place called Athelney124, and from thence sallied with his vassals of Somerset to make frequent and unwearied assaults upon the heathen. And again, the seventh week after Easter, he rode to Egbert's Stone125, which is in the eastern part of Selwood Forest (in Latin 'Great Forest,' and in Welsh Coit Maur). Here he was met by all the neighboring folk of Somersetshire and Wiltshire, and such of Hampshire as had not sailed beyond sea for fear of the heathen; and when they saw the king restored alive, as it were, after such great tribulation, they were filled, as was meet, with immeasurable joy, and encamped there for one night. At daybreak of the following morning, the king struck his camp, and came to Æglea126, where he encamped for one night.

Note 123. Mostly from the Chronicle.

Note 124. In Somersetshire.

Note 125. Unknown.

Note 126. Or perhaps better, Iglea; see Stevenson's note on the word, p. 270 of his edition. He says: 'It is probably an older name of Southleigh Wood, or of part of it.'

Battle of Edington

Assers Life of Alfred 878. 878. 56. Battle of Edington, and Treaty with Guthrum.127 The next morning at dawn he moved his standards to Edington128, and there fought bravely and perseveringly by means of a close shield-wall against the whole army of the heathen, whom at length, with the divine help, he defeated with great slaughter, and pursued them flying to their stronghold. Immediately he slew all the men and carried off all the horses and cattle that he could find without the fortress, and thereupon pitched his camp, with all his army, before the gates of the heathen stronghold. And when he had remained there fourteen days, the heathen, terrified by hunger, cold, fear, and last of all by despair, begged for peace, engaging to give the king as many designated hostages as he pleased, and to receive none from him in return - in which manner they had never before made peace with any one. The king, hearing this embassage, of his own motion took pity upon them, and received from them the designated hostages, as many as he would. Thereupon the heathen swore, besides, that they would straightway leave his kingdom; and their king, Guthrum, promised to embrace Christianity, and receive baptism at King Alfred's (age 29) hands - all of which articles he and his men fulfilled as they had promised. For after [three]129 weeks Guthrum, king of the heathen, with thirty130 men chosen from his army, came to Alfred (age 29) at a place called Aller, near Athelney, and there King Alfred (age 29), receiving him as a son by adoption, raised him up from the holy font of baptism. On the eighth day, at a royal vill named Wedmore [Map], his chrism-loosing131 took place. After his baptism he remained twelve days with the king, who, together with all his companions, gave him many rich gifts.132

Note 127. Based upon the Chronicle.

Note 128. In Wiltshire.

Note 129. Supplied by Stevenson from the Chronicle.

Note 130. Properly, as one of thirty, according to the Chronicle.

Note 131. Chrism is the term employed for the mixture of oil and balsam employed in the rite of confirmation, and sometimes for the ceremony of confirmation itself. In the early church, this ceremony immediately followed baptism, and was performed by the laying on of hands. In the Roman church it is obligatory on all Catholics, and no baptism is theoretically complete without it. It is performed by a bishop (only exceptionally by a priest). The ceremony begins with the bishop's rising and facing the person or persons to be confirmed, his pastoral staff in his hand, and saying: 'May the Holy Ghost come upon you, and the power of the Holy Ghost keep you from sins' (Handbook to Christian and Ecclesiastical Rome: Liturgy in Rome, London, 1897, pp. 169–171). The rite is described in Egbert's Pontifical, which may be taken as representing the custom in the church of Alfred's time. Lingard says (Anglo-Saxon Church, London, 1858, 1. 297): 'According to that pontifical, the bishop prayed thus: "Almighty and Everlasting God, who hast granted to this thy servant to be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, and hast given to him remission of his sins, send down upon him thy sevenfold Holy Spirit, the Paraclete from heaven, Amen. Give to him the spirit of wisdom and understanding, Amen - the spirit of counsel and fortitude, Amen - the spirit of knowledge and piety, Amen. Fill him with the spirit of the fear of God and our Lord Jesus Christ, and mercifully sign him with the sign of the holy cross for life eternal." The bishop then marked his forehead with chrism, and proceeded thus: "Receive this sign of the holy cross with the chrism of salvation in Christ Jesus unto life eternal." The head was then bound with a fillet of new linen to be worn seven days, and the bishop resumed: "O God, who didst give thy Holy Spirit to thine apostles, that by them and their successors he might be given to the rest of the faithful, look down on the ministry of our lowliness, and grant that into the heart of him whose forehead we have this day anointed, and confirmed with the sign of the cross, thy Holy Spirit may descend; and that, dwelling therein, he may make it the temple of his glory, through Christ our Lord." The confirmed then received the episcopal blessing, and communicated during the mass.'

The chrism-loosing was the ceremony of unbinding the fillet, apparently.

Note 132. MS. ædificia; Stevenson, beneficia.

Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Around 12 May 878. Then, in the seventh week after Easter, he rode to Brixton by the eastern side of Selwood; and there came out to meet him all the people of Somersersetshire, and Wiltshire, and that part of Hampshire which is on this side of the sea; and they rejoiced to see him. Then within one night he went from this retreat to Hey; and within one night after he proceeded to Heddington; and there fought with all the army, and put them to flight, riding after them as far as the fortress, where he remained a fortnight. Then the army gave him hostages with many oaths, that they would go out of his kingdom. They told him also, that their king would receive baptism. And they acted accordingly; for in the course of three weeks after, King Guthrum, attended by some thirty of the worthiest men that were in the army, came to him at Aller, which is near Athelney [Map], and there the king became his sponsor in baptism; and his crisom-leasing was at Wedmor. He was there twelve nights with the king (age 29), who honoured him and his attendants with many presents.

Around 12 May 878 King Alfred "The Great" of Wessex (age 29) defeated the Viking army led by Guthrum Viking at the Battle of Edington at Edington, Wiltshire (the location is subject to dispute; possibly Heddington, Wiltshire).

Treaty of Wedmore

Around Aug 878 Guthrum Viking agreed to leave Wessex, to be baptised and to accept King Alfred "The Great" of Wessex (age 29) as his adoptive father. Known as Treaty of Wedmore.

Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. 882. This year went the army up along the Maese far into Frankland, and there sat a year; and the same year went King Alfred (age 33) out to sea with a fleet; and fought with four ship-rovers of the Danes, and took two of their ships; wherein all the men were slain; and the other two surrendered; but the men were severely cut and wounded ere they surrendered.

Assers Life of Alfred 64. 882. 64. Alfred's Naval Battle with the Danes.141 In that same year Alfred (age 33), King of the Anglo-Saxons, fought a battle at sea against the heathen fleet, of which he captured two ships, and slew all who were on board. Two commanders of the other ships, with all their crews, worn out by the fight and their wounds, laid down their arms, and submitted to the king on bended knees with many entreaties.

Note 141. Ibid.

Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. 883. This year went the army up the Scheldt to Conde, and there sat a year. And Pope Marinus sent King Alfred (age 34) the "lignum Domini". The same year led Sighelm and Athelstan to Rome the alms which King Alfred (age 34) ordered thither, and also in India to St. Thomas and to St. Bartholomew. Then they sat against the army at London; and there, with the favour of God, they were very successful after the performance of their vows.

Assers Life of Alfred 884. 884. 67. Alfred's Naval Battle at the Mouth of the Stour.144 In that same year Alfred (age 35), King of the Anglo-Saxons, shifted his fleet, full of fighting men, from Kent to East Anglia145, for the sake of spoil. No sooner had they arrived at the mouth of the river Stour than thirteen ships of the heathen met them, prepared for battle; a fierce naval combat ensued, and the heathen were all slain; all the ships, with all their money, were taken. After this, while the victorious royal fleet was reposing146, the heathen who occupied East Anglia assembled their ships from every quarter, met the same royal fleet at sea in the mouth of the same river, and, after a naval engagement, gained the victory.

Note 144. Mostly from the Chronicle.

Note 145. Cf. chap. 60.

Note 146. The MS. has dormiret, but perhaps for domum iret, since the Chronicle has hāmweard wendon (Stevenson); so perhaps we should read 'was on its way home.'

Assers Life of Alfred 884. 884. 66. Deliverance of Rochester.143 In the year of our Lord's incarnation 884, which was the thirty-sixth of King Alfred's life, the aforesaid army divided into two parts: one body of them went into East Frankland, and the other, coming to Britain, entered Kent, where they besieged a city called in Saxon Rochester [Map], situated on the east bank of the river Medway. Before the gate of the town the heathen suddenly erected a strong fortress; but they were unable to take the city, because the citizens defended themselves bravely until King Alfred (age 35) came up to help them with a large army. Then the heathen abandoned their fortress and all the horses which they had brought with them out of Frankland, and, leaving behind them in the fortress the greater part of their prisoners on the sudden arrival of the king, fled in haste to their ships; the Saxons immediately seized upon the prisoners and horses left by the heathen; and so the latter, compelled by dire necessity, returned the same summer to Frankland.

Note 143. Largely from the Chronicle.

Assers Life of Alfred 884. 884. 72. The Danes break their Treaty.161 In that same year also the army of heathen which dwelt in East Anglia disgracefully broke the peace which they had concluded with King Alfred (age 35).

Note 161. From the Chronicle.

Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. 885. This year separated the before-mentioned army in two; one part east, another to Rochester [Map]. This city they surrounded, and wrought another fortress around themselves. The people, however, defended the city, until King Alfred (age 36) came out with his army. Then went the enemy to their ships, and forsook their work. There were they provided with horses; and soon after, in the same summer, they went over sea again. The same year sent King Alfred (age 36) a fleet from Kent into East-Anglia. As soon as they came to Stourmouth, there met them sixteen ships of the pirates. And they fought with them, took all the ships, and slew the men. As they returned homeward with their booty, they met a large fleet of the pirates, and fought with them the same day; but the Danes had the victory.

Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. 886. This year went the army back again to the west, that before were bent eastward; and proceeding upwards along the Seine, fixed their winter-quarters in the city of Paris.37 The same year also King Alfred (age 37) fortified the city of London; and the whole English nation turned to him, except that part of it which was held captive by the Danes. He then committed the city to the care of Alderman Ethered, to hold it under him.

Note 37. For a more circumstantial account of the Danish or Norman operations against Paris at this time, the reader may consult Felibien, "Histoire de la Ville de Paris", liv. iii. and the authorities cited by him in the margin. This is that celebrated siege of Paris minutely described by Abbo, Abbot of Fleury, in two books of Latin hexameters; which, however barbarous, contain some curious and authentic matter relating to the history of that period.

Assers Life of Alfred 886. 886. 83. Alfred rebuilds London.211 In that same year Alfred (age 37), King of the Anglo-Saxons, after the burning of cities and massacres of the people, honorably rebuilt the city of London, made it habitable, and gave it into the custody of Æthelred, Ealdorman of Mercia. To this king212 all the Angles and Saxons who hitherto had been dispersed everywhere, or were in captivity with the heathen213, voluntarily turned, and submitted themselves to his rule.214

Note 211. Largely from the Chronicle

Note 212. Namely, Alfred (age 37).

Note 213. A mistranslation from the Chronicle; it should read, 'were not in captivity,' etc.

Note 214. Here follows Camden's famous (forged?) interpolation about Grimbald and Oxford.

In or before 887 [his son-in-law] Æthelred Earldorman of Mercia and [his daughter] Æthelflæd Lady of the Mercians (age 16) were married. She the daughter of King Alfred "The Great" of Wessex (age 37) and Æalhswith of Mercia Queen Consort of England.

Assers Life of Alfred 887. 887. 89. Alfred's Handbook.226 When that first quotation had been copied, he was eager at once to read, and to translate into Saxon, and then to teach many others - even as we are assured concerning that happy thief who recognized the Lord Jesus Christ, his Lord, aye, the Lord of all men, as he was hanging on the venerable gallows of the holy cross, and, with trustful petition, casting down of his body no more than his eyes, since he was so entirely fastened with nails that he could do nothing else, cried with humble voice, 'O Christ, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom!'227 since it was only on the cross that he began to learn the elements of the Christian faith.228 Inspired by God, he began the rudiments of Holy Scripture on the sacred feast of St. Martin.229 Then he went on, as far as he was able, to learn the flowers230 collected from various quarters by any and all of his teachers, and to reduce them into the form of one book, although jumbled together, until it became almost as large as a psalter. This book he called his Enchiridion231 or Handbook232, because he carefully kept it at hand day and night, and found, as he then used to say, no small consolation therein.

Note 226. Original.

Note 227. Luke 23. 42.

Note 228. The following phrases, introduced at this point, seem to be corrupt: Hic aut aliter, quamvis dissimili modo, in regia potestate.

Note 229. November 11.

Note 230. Alfred calls the passages which he translated from St. Augustine's Soliloquies by the name of 'flowers' or 'blossoms' (blōstman). See Hargrove's edition (Yale Studies in English XIII), and his version into modern English (Yale Studies in English XXII).

Note 231. The application of the word to a work of St. Augustine's gave it great currency in the Frankish Latin of the period.

Note 232. The Handbook seems to have been known to William of Malmesbury (d. 1143); cf. his Gesta Pontificum, pp. 333, 336.

Assers Life of Alfred 887. 887. 88. Alfred's Manual.222 On a certain day we were both of us sitting in the king's chamber, talking on all kinds of subjects, as usual, and it happened that I read to him a quotation out of a certain book. While he was listening to it attentively with both ears, and pondering it deeply with his inmost mind, he suddenly showed me a little book223 which he carried in his bosom, wherein were written the daily course, together with certain Psalms and prayers which he had read in his youth, and thereupon bade me write the quotation in that book. Hearing this, and perceiving in part his active intelligence and goodness of heart, together with his devout resolution of studying divine wisdom, I gave, though in secret, yet with hands uplifted to heaven, boundless thanks to Almighty God, who had implanted such devotion to the study of wisdom in the king's heart. But since I could find no blank space in that book wherein to write the quotation, it being all full of various matters, I delayed a little, chiefly that I might stir up the choice understanding of the king to a higher knowledge of the divine testimonies. Upon his urging me to make haste and write it quickly, I said to him, 'Are you willing that I should write that quotation on some separate leaf? Perhaps we shall find one or more other such which will please you; and if that should happen, we shall be glad that we have kept this by itself.' 'Your plan is good,' said he; so I gladly made haste to get ready a pamphlet of four leaves, at the head of which I wrote what he had bidden me; and that same day I wrote in it, at his request, and as I had predicted, no less than three other quotations which pleased him. From that time we daily talked together, and investigated the same subject by the help of other quotations which we found and which pleased him, so that the pamphlet gradually became full, and deservedly so, for it is written, 'The righteous man builds upon a moderate foundation, and by degrees passes to greater things.'224 Thus, like a most productive bee, flying far and wide, and scrutinizing the fenlands, he eagerly and unceasingly collected various flowers of Holy Scripture, with which he copiously stored the cells of his mind.225

Note 222. Original.

Note 223. Cf. chap. 24.

Note 224. Author unknown.

Note 225. Cf. chap. 76.

Assers Life of Alfred 887. 887. 87. Alfred begins to translate from Latin.221 In that same year also the oft-mentioned Alfred (age 38), King of the Anglo-Saxons, by divine inspiration first began, on one and the same day, to read and to translate; but that this may be clearer to those who are ignorant, I will relate the cause of this long delay in beginning.

Note 221. Original.

In 888 King Alfred "The Great" of Wessex (age 39) founded Athelney Abbey [Map] following his victory at the Battle of Edington.

Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. 891. This year went the army eastward; and King Arnulf fought with the land-force, ere the ships arrived, in conjunction with the eastern Franks, and Saxons, and Bavarians, and put them to flight. And three Scots came to King Alfred (age 42) in a boat without any oars from Ireland; whence they stole away, because they would live in a state of pilgrimage, for the love of God, they recked not where. The boat in which they came was made of two hides and a half; and they took with them provisions for seven nights; and within seven nights they came to land in Cornwall, and soon after went to King Alfred. They were thus named: Dubslane, and Macbeth, and Maelinmun. And Swinney, the best teacher that was among the Scots, departed this life. And the same year after Easter, about the gang-days or before, appeared the star that men in book-Latin call "cometa": some men say that in English it may be termed "hairy star"; for that there standeth off from it a long gleam of light, whilom on one side, whilom on each.

Around 893 [his son] King Edward "Elder" of the Anglo Saxons (age 19) and [his daughter-in-law] Ecgwynn Unknown Queen Consort Anglo Saxons were married. He the son of King Alfred "The Great" of Wessex (age 44) and Æalhswith of Mercia Queen Consort of England.

Battle of Farnham

Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. 894. This year, that was about twelve months after they had wrought a work in the eastern district, the Northumbrians and East-Angles had given oaths to King Alfred (age 45), and the East-Angles six hostages; nevertheless, contrary to the truce, as oft as the other plunderers went out with all their army, then went they also, either with them, or in a separate division. Upon this King Alfred gathered his army, and advanced, so that he encamped between the two armies at the highest point he could find defended by wood and by water, that he might reach either, if they would seek any field. Then went they forth in quest of the wealds, in troops and companies, wheresoever the country was defenceless. But they were also sought after most days by other companies, either by day or by night, both from the army and also from the towns. The king had divided his army into two parts; so that they were always half at home, half out; besides the men that should maintain the towns. The army came not all out of their stations more than twice; once, when they first came to land, ere the forces were collected, and again, when they wished to depart from their stations. They had now seized much booty, and would ferry it northward over Thames into Essex, to meet their ships. But the army rode before them, fought with them at Farnham, routed their forces, and there arrested the booty. And they flew over Thames without any ford, then up by the Colne on an island. Then the king's forces beset them without as long as they had food; but they had their time set, and their meat noted. And the king was advancing thitherwards on his march with the division that accompanied him. But while he was advancing thitherwards, the other force was returning homewards. The Danes, however, still remained behind; for their king was wounded in the fight, so that they could not carry him. Then collected together those that dwell in Northumbria and East-Anglia about a hundred ships, and went south about; and with some forty more went north about, and besieged a fort in Devonshire by the north sea; and those who went south about beset Exeter [Map]. When the king heard that, then went he west towards Exeter with all his force, except a very considerable part of the eastern army, who advanced till they came to London; and there being joined by the citizens and the reinforcements that came from the west, they went east to Barnfleet. Hasten was there with his gang, who before were stationed at Milton, and also the main army had come thither, that sat before in the mouth of the Limne at Appledore. Hasten had formerly constructed that work at Barnfleet, and was then gone out on plunder, the main army being at home. Then came the king's troops, and routed the enemy, broke down the work, took all that was therein money, women, and children and brought all to London. And all the ships they either broke to pieces, or burned, or brought to London or to Rochester [Map]. And Hasten's wife and her two sons they brought to the king, who returned them to him, because one of them was his godson, and the other Alderman Ethered's. They had adopted them ere Hasten came to Bamfleet; when he had given them hostages and oaths, and the king had also given him many presents; as he did also then, when he returned the child and the wife. And as soon as they came to Bamfleet, and the work was built, then plundered he in the same quarter of his kingdom that Ethered his compeer should have held; and at another time he was plundering in the same district when his work was destroyed. The king then went westward with the army toward Exeter, as I before said, and the army had beset the city; but whilst he was gone they went to their ships. Whilst he was thus busied there with the army, in the west, the marauding parties were both gathered together at Shobury in Essex, and there built a fortress. Then they both went together up by the Thames, and a great concourse joined them, both from the East-Angles and from the Northumbrians. They then advanced upward by the Thames, till they arrived near the Severn. Then they proceeded upward by the Severn. Meanwhile assembled Alderman Ethered, Alderman Ethelm, Alderman Ethelnoth, and the king's thanes, who were employed at home at the works, from every town east of the Parret, as well as west of Selwood, and from the parts east and also north of the Thames and west of the Severn, and also some part of North-Wales. When they were all collected together, they overtook the rear of the enemy at Buttington on the banks of the Severn, and there beset them without on each side in a fortress. When they had sat there many weeks on both sides of the water, and the king meanwhile was in Devonshire westward with the naval force, then were the enemy weighed down with famine. They had devoured the greater part of their horses; and the rest had perished with hunger. Then went they out to the men that sat on the eastern side of the river, and fought with them; but the Christians had the victory. And there Ordhelm, the king's thane, was slain; and also many other king's thanes; and of the Danes there were many slain, and that part of them that came away escaped only by flight. As soon as they came into Essex to their fortress, and to their ships, then gathered the remnant again in East-Anglia and from the Northumbrians a great force before winter, and having committed their wives and their ships and their booty to the East-Angles, they marched on the stretch by day and night, till they arrived at a western city in Wirheal that is called Chester [Map]. There the army could not overtake them ere they arrived within the work: they beset the work though, without, some two days, took all the cattle that was thereabout, slew the men whom they could overtake without the work, and all the corn they either burned or consumed with their horses every evening. That was about a twelvemonth since they first came hither over sea.

Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. 897. In the summer of this year went the army, some into East-Anglia, and some into Northumbria; and those that were penniless got themselves ships, and went south over sea to the Seine. The enemy had not, thank God, entirely destroyed the English nation; but they were much more weakened in these three years by the disease of cattle, and most of all of men; so that many of the mightiest of the king's thanes, that were in the land, died within the three years. Of these, one was Swithulf Bishop of Rochester, Ceolmund alderman in Kent, Bertulf alderman in Essex, Wulfred alderman in Hampshire, Elhard Bishop of Dorchester, Eadulf a king's thane in Sussex, Bernuff governor of Winchester, and Egulf the king's horse-thane; and many also with them; though I have named only the men of the highest rank. This same year the plunderers in East-Anglia and Northumbria greatly harassed the land of the West-Saxons by piracies on the southern coast, but most of all by the esks which they built many years before. Then King Alfred (age 48) gave orders for building long ships against the esks, which were full-nigh twice as long as the others. Some had sixty oars, some more; and they were both swifter and steadier, and also higher than the others. They were not shaped either after the Frisian or the Danish model, but so as he himself thought that they might be most serviceable. Then, at a certain turn of this same year, came six of their ships to the Isle of Wight; and going into Devonshire, they did much mischief both there and everywhere on the seacoast. Then commanded the king his men to go out against them with nine of the new ships, and prevent their escape by the mouth of the river to the outer sea. Then came they out against them with three ships, and three others were standing upwards above the mouth on dry land: for the men were gone off upon shore. Of the first three ships they took two at the mouth outwards, and slew the men; the third veered off, but all the men were slain except five; and they too were severely wounded. Then came onward those who manned the other ships, which were also very uneasily situated. Three were stationed on that side of the deep where the Danish ships were aground, whilst the others were all on the opposite side; so that none of them could join the rest; for the water had ebbed many furlongs from them. Then went the Danes from their three ships to those other three that were on their side, be-ebbed; and there they then fought. There were slain Lucomon, the king's reve, and Wulfheard, a Frieslander; Ebb, a Frieslander, and Ethelere, a Frieslander; and Ethelferth, the king's neat-herd; and of all the men, Frieslanders and English, sixty-two; of the Danes a hundred and twenty. The tide, however, reached the Danish ships ere the Christians could shove theirs out; whereupon they rowed them out; but they were so crippled, that they could not row them beyond the coast of Sussex: there two of them the sea drove ashore; and the crew were led to Winchester to the king, who ordered them to be hanged. The men who escaped in the single ship came to East-Anglia, severely wounded. This same year were lost no less than twenty ships, and the men withal, on the southern coast. Wulfric, the king's horse-thane, who was also viceroy of Wales, died the same year.

Death of King Alfred the Great

On 26 Oct 899 King Alfred "The Great" of Wessex (age 50) died at Winchester, Hampshire [Map]. He was buried at Hyde Abbey. His son [his son] King Edward "Elder" of the Anglo Saxons (age 25) succeeded King Anglo Saxons. [his daughter-in-law] Ecgwynn Unknown Queen Consort Anglo Saxons by marriage Queen Consort Anglo Saxons.

After 26 Oct 899. King Alfred "The Great" of Wessex (deceased) left Axmouth, Devon [Map] to his son [his son] Æthelweard Wessex in his will.

Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. 901. This year died ALFRED, the son of Ethelwulf, six nights before the mass of All Saints. He was king over all the English nation, except that part that was under the power of the Danes. He held the government one year and a half less than thirty winters; and then [his son] Edward (age 27) his son took to the government. Then Prince Ethelwald, the son of his [his brother] paternal uncle, rode against the towns of Winburn and of Twineham [Map], without leave of the king and his council. Then rode the king with his army; so that he encamped the same night at Badbury [Map] near Winburn; and Ethelwald remained within the town with the men that were under him, and had all the gates shut upon him, saying, that he would either there live or there die. But in the meantime he stole away in the night, and sought the army in Northumberland. The king gave orders to ride after him; but they were not able to overtake him. The Danes, however, received him as their king. They then rode after the wife that Ethelwald had taken without the king's leave, and against the command of the bishops; for she was formerly consecrated a nun. In this year also died Ethered, who was alderman of Devonshire, four weeks before King Alfred.

On 05 Dec 902 [his former wife] Æalhswith of Mercia Queen Consort of England died.

In 1110 Hyde Abbey was consecrated. The bodies of King Alfred "The Great" of Wessex, his wife [his former wife] Æalhswith of Mercia Queen Consort of England, and their son [his son] King Edward "Elder" of the Anglo Saxons were carried in state through Winchester to be interred before the high altar. Their royal presence made Hyde Abbey a popular pilgrimage destination.

Time Team Series 1 Episode 1: The Guerrilla Base of the King was filmed between 16 Apr 1993 and 18 Apr 1993. It was originally shown on 16 Jan 1994.

Location: Athelney Abbey [Map].

Category: Time Team Early Medieval.

Time Team:

Tony Robinson (age 47), Presenter

Mick Aston (age 47), Bristol University Landscape Archaeologist

Gerry Barber, Bristol University Environmental Archaeologist

Phil Harding (age 43), Wessex Archaeological Trust Field Archaeologist

Carenza Lewis (age 30), Royal Commission on Historic Monuments

Robin Bush (age 50), Archivist

Victor Ambrus (age 58), Historical Illustrator

John Gator, Chris Gaffney, Geophysics

Gerry McDonnell, Archeaological Scientist.

Base: George Hotel [Map] in Wedmore.

Techniques: Field Walking, Excavations, Magnetometry, Resistivity, Soil Coring

Sources: Life of Alfred by Asser, Assers Life of Alfred 878.

Historical Figures: King Alfred "The Great" of Wessex, Guthrum Viking.

Events: Battle of Edington.

Outcomes: Plan of Athelney Abbey [Map], possible site of original Saxon church, Anglo-Saxon iron slag indicating iron working; the furthest west found at the time.

Channel 4 Episode

Assers Life of Alfred 80. 80. The Welsh Princes who submit to Alfred.199 At that time, and long before, all the countries in South Wales belonged to King Alfred, and still belong to him. For instance, King Hemeid, with all the inhabitants of the region of Dyfed200, restrained by the violence of the six sons of Rhodri201, had submitted to the dominion of the king. Howel also, son of Ris, King of Glywyssing202, and Brochmail and Fernmail, sons of Mouric, kings of Gwent203, compelled by the violence and tyranny of Ealdorman Æthelred and of the Mercians, of their own accord sought out the same king204, that they might enjoy rule and protection from him against their enemies. Helised, also, son of Teudubr, King of Brecknock, compelled by the violence of the same sons of Rhodri, of his own accord sought the lordship of the aforesaid king; and Anarawd, son of Rhodri, with his brothers, at length abandoning the friendship of the Northumbrians, from whom he had received no good, but rather harm, came into King Alfred's presence, and eagerly sought his friendship. The king received him with honor, adopted him as his son by confirmation from the bishop's hand205, and bestowed many gifts upon him. Thus he became subject to the king with all his people, on condition that he should be obedient to the king's will in all respects, in the same way as Æthelred and the Mercians.

Note 199. Original.

Note 200. Pembrokeshire and part of Carmarthenshire.

Note 201. 'Rhodri Mawr (the Great), King of Gwyneth, who acquired the rule of the whole of North and Mid-Wales and Cardigan' (Stevenson).

Note 202. Old name of Glamorgan and part of Monmouthshire.

Note 203. In Monmouthshire.

Note 204. Alfred.

Note 205. See chaps. 8. and chap. 56.

Assers Life of Alfred 91. 91. Alfred's Troubles.237 Now the king was pierced with many nails of tribulation, though established in the royal sway; for from the twentieth year of his age to the present year, which is his forty-fifth238, he has been constantly afflicted with most severe attacks of an unknown disease, so that there is not a single hour in which he is not either suffering from that malady, or nigh to despair by reason of the gloom which is occasioned by his fear of it. Moreover the constant invasions of foreign nations, by which he was continually harassed by land and sea, without any interval of quiet, constituted a sufficient cause of disturbance.

Note 237. Original.

Note 238. Cf. chap. 74.

Assers Life of Alfred 77. 77. Alfred's Scholarly Associates: Werfrith, Plegmund, Æthelstan, and Werwulf.187 But God at that time, as some consolation to the king's benevolence, enduring no longer his kindly and just complaint, sent as it were certain luminaries, namely, Werfrith188, Bishop of the church of Worcester, a man well versed in divine Scripture, who, by the king's command, was the first to interpret with clearness and elegance the books of the Dialogues of Pope Gregory and Peter, his disciple, from Latin into Saxon, sometimes putting sense for sense; then Plegmund189, a Mercian by birth, Archbishop of the church of Canterbury, a venerable man, endowed with wisdom; besides Æthelstan190 and Werwulf, learned priests and clerks191, Mercians by birth. These four King Alfred had called to him from Mercia, and he exalted them with many honors and powers in the kingdom of the West Saxons, not to speak of those which Archbishop Plegmund and Bishop Werfrith had in Mercia. By the teaching and wisdom of all these the king's desire increased continually, and was gratified. Night and day, whenever he had any leisure, he commanded such men as these to read books to him - for he never suffered himself to be without one of them - so that he came to possess a knowledge of almost every book, though of himself he could not yet understand anything of books, since he had not yet learned to read anything.

Note 187. Original.

Note 188. See Appendix I, p. 69. In Alfred's will he gives Werfrith (Wærferth) a hundred marks.

Note 189. See Appendix I, p. 71.

Note 190. Perhaps Bishop of Ramsbury (909 a.d.). The later MSS. of the Chronicle say, under the year 883: 'And in the same year Sighelm and Æthelstan took to Rome the alms that King Alfred sent, and also to India to St. Thomas' and St. Bartholomew's.'

Note 191. Or, 'chaplains.' See p. 61, note 6.

Assers Life of Alfred 91. Not to speak of the disease above mentioned, he was disturbed by the quarrels of his subjects244, who would of their own choice endure little or no toil for the common need of the kingdom. He alone, sustained by the divine aid, once he had assumed the helm of government, strove in every way, like a skilful pilot, to steer245 his ship, laden with much wealth, into the safe and longed-for harbor of his country, though almost all his crew were weary, suffering them not to faint or hesitate, even amid the waves and manifold whirlpools of this present life. Thus his bishops, earls, nobles, favorite thanes, and prefects, who, next to God and the king, had the whole government of the kingdom, as was fitting, continually received from him instruction, compliment, exhortation, and command; nay, at last, if they were disobedient, and his long patience was exhausted, he would reprove them severely, and censure in every way their vulgar folly and obstinacy; and thus he wisely gained and bound them to his own wishes and the common interests of the whole kingdom. But if, owing to the sluggishness of the people, these admonitions of the king were either not fulfilled, or were begun late at the moment of necessity, and so, because they were not carried through, did not redound to the advantage of those who put them in execution - take as an example the fortresses which he ordered, but which are not yet begun or, begun late, have not yet been completely finished - when hostile forces have made invasions by sea, or land, or both, then those who had set themselves against the imperial orders have been put to shame and overwhelmed with vain repentance. I speak of vain repentance on the authority of Scripture, whereby numberless persons have had cause for sorrow when they have been smitten by great harm through the perpetration of deceit. But though by this means, sad to say, they may be bitterly afflicted, and roused to grief by the loss of fathers, wives, children, thanes, man servants, maid servants, products, and all their household stuff, what is the use of hateful repentance when their kinsmen are dead, and they cannot aid them, or redeem from dire captivity those who are captive? for they cannot even help themselves when they have escaped, since they have not wherewithal to sustain their own lives. Sorely exhausted by a tardy repentance, they grieve over their carelessness in despising the king's commands; they unite in praising his wisdom, promising to fulfil with all their might what before they had declined to do, namely, in the construction of fortresses, and other things useful to the whole kingdom.

Note 244. The early part of the sentence is corrupt in the MS.

Note 245. The figure is found as early as Sophocles and Aristophanes.

Assers Life of Alfred 878. 53. Alfred in Somersetshire. At that same time the above-mentioned King Alfred, with a few of his nobles, and certain soldiers and vassals, was leading in great tribulation an unquiet life among the woodlands and swamps of Somersetshire; for he had nothing that he needed except what by frequent sallies he could forage openly or stealthily from the heathen or from the Christians who had submitted to the rule of the heathen.117

Note 117. At this point Archbishop Parker interpolated, from the Annals of St. Neots, the story of Alfred and the cakes. This story, however, cannot be proved to antedate the Norman Conquest.

[his daughter] Æthelgifu Wessex Abbess Shaftesbury was born to King Alfred "The Great" of Wessex and Æalhswith of Mercia Queen Consort of England.

[his son] Æthelweard Wessex was born to King Alfred "The Great" of Wessex and Æalhswith of Mercia Queen Consort of England.

[his daughter] Aelfthryth Wessex Margrave Flanders was born to King Alfred "The Great" of Wessex and Æalhswith of Mercia Queen Consort of England.

Assers Life of Alfred 73. 73. Asser makes a New Beginning.162 And now, to return to that from which I digressed, lest I be compelled by my long navigation to abandon the haven of desired rest163, I propose, as far as my knowledge will enable me, to speak somewhat concerning the life, character, and just conduct, and in no small degree concerning the deeds, of my lord Alfred, King of the Anglo-Saxons, after he married the said respected wife of noble Mercian race; and, with God's blessing, I will despatch it concisely and briefly, as I promised, that I may not, by prolixity in relating each new event, offend the minds of those who may be somewhat hard to please.

Note 162. Based upon the preface to Eginhard's Life of Charlemagne.

Note 163. See chap. 21.

Royal Ancestors of King Alfred "The Great" of Wessex 849-899

Kings Wessex: Son of King Æthelwulf of Wessex

Royal Descendants of King Alfred "The Great" of Wessex 849-899

Agnes La Marck Queen Consort Navarre x 35

Isabella Burgundy Queen Consort Germany x 1

King Edward "Elder" of the Anglo Saxons x 1

Matilda Flanders Queen Consort England x 1

Bertha Gerulfing Queen Consort France x 1

Baldwin I King Jerusalem x 2

Adela Flanders Queen Consort Denmark x 1

Maud Queen Consort Scotland x 2

Judith Welf Holy Roman Empress x 1

Isabelle Flanders Queen Consort France x 2

Otto Welf IV Holy Roman Emperor x 1

Matilda Dammartin Queen Consort Portugal x 3

Blanche Capet Queen Navarre x 5

Maria Reginar Queen Consort France x 7

Henry Luxemburg VII Holy Roman Emperor x 5

Louis Wittelsbach IV Holy Roman Emperor x 1

Margaret of Burgundy Queen Consort France x 2

Joan of Burgundy Queen Consort France x 6

Joan "Lame" Burgundy Queen Consort France x 2

Blanche of Burgundy Queen Consort France x 6

Philip "Noble" III King Navarre x 6

Joan Évreux Queen Consort France x 6

Margaret Hainault Holy Roman Empress x 11

Philippa of Hainault Queen Consort England x 11

Blanche Valois Holy Roman Empress Luxemburg x 6

Blanche Dampierre Queen Consort Norway and Sweden x 11

Joan Auvergne Queen Consort France x 6

Joanna Bourbon Queen Consort France x 19

Blanche Bourbon Queen Consort Castile x 19

Rupert King Germany x 1

Yolande of Bar Queen Consort Aragon x 9

King Richard II of England x 2

King Louis of Naples x 13

King Henry V of England x 2

Philippa Lancaster Queen Consort Denmark x 2

Joan Beaufort Queen Consort Scotland x 2

Jacquetta of Luxemburg Duchess Bedford x 19

Margaret of Anjou Queen Consort England x 13

Mary of Guelders Queen Consort Scotland x 35

Charlotte Savoy Queen Consort France x 19

King Edward IV of England x 7

King Richard III of England x 7

Anne Neville Queen Consort England x 9

King Henry VII of England and Ireland x 3

Christina Queen Consort Denmark Norway and Sweden x 11

Louis XII King France x 35

Jean III King Navarre x 13

Bianca Maria Sforza Holy Roman Empress x 19

Anne of Brittany Queen Consort France x 6

Philip "Handsome Fair" King Castile x 57

Joachim "Nestor" Hohenzollern Elector Brandenburg x 1

Germaine Foix Queen Consort Aragon x 35

Marguerite Valois Orléans Queen Consort Navarre x 57

King Francis I of France x 57

Queen Anne Boleyn of England x 13

Anne Jagiellon Holy Roman Empress x 18

Christian III King Denmark x 1

Queen Jane Seymour x 20

Catherine Parr Queen Consort England x 22

Anne of Cleves Queen Consort England x 61

Mary of Guise Queen Consort Scotland x 164

Antoine King Navarre x 97

Queen Catherine Howard of England x 7

Augustus Wettin Elector of Saxony x 1

Jane "Nine Days Queen" Grey I Queen England and Ireland x 19

Louis VI Elector Palatine x 35

Louise Lorraine Queen Consort France x 118

King James I of England and Ireland and VI of Scotland x 2

Maximilian "The Great" Wittelsbach I Duke Bavaria I Elector Bavaria x 171

Maria Anna Wittelsbach Holy Roman Empress x 171

Electress Louise Juliana of the Palatine Rhine x 45

Ferdinand of Spain II Holy Roman Emperor x 43

Margaret of Austria Queen Consort Spain x 43

Anna of Austria Holy Roman Empress x 10

Frederick William "Great Elector" Hohenzollern Elector Brandenburg x 1

Sophie Amalie Hanover Queen Consort Denmark x 2

Ernest Augustus Hanover Elector Brunswick-Lüneburg x 2

Eleonora Gonzaga Queen Consort Bohemia x 52

Maria Leopoldine Habsburg Spain Queen Consort Bohemia x 43

Marie Françoise Élisabeth of Savoy Queen Consort of Portugal x 200

Charlotte Amalie Hesse-Kassel Queen Consort Denmark and Norway x 3

Charles Palatinate Simmern II Elector Palatine Rhine x 2

Victor Amadeus King Sardinia x 232

Sophia Dorothea Hanover Queen Consort England x 2

Louise of Mecklenburg Güstrow Queen Consort Denmark and Norway x 3

Maria Anna Neuburg Queen Consort Spain x 64

Frederick I King Sweden x 5

Joseph I Holy Roman Emperor x 64

Charles Habsburg Spain VI Holy Roman Emperor x 64

Sophia Louise Mecklenburg-Schwerin Queen Consort Prussia x 4

Polyxena Hesse Rotenburg Queen Consort Sardinia x 2

Francis I Holy Roman Emperor x 128

Louise Élisabeth Bourbon Queen Consort Spain x 2

Elisabeth Therese Lorraine Queen Consort Sardinia x 130

Juliana Maria Welf Queen Consort Denmark and Norway x 2

President George Washington x 7

King George III of Great Britain and Ireland x 91

William Elector of Hesse x 5

Charlotte Mecklenburg Strelitz Queen Consort England x 4

Caroline Matilda Hanover Queen Consort Denmark and Norway x 91

Louis XVI King France x 2

Louis XVIII King France x 2

King Charles X of France x 2

Marie Sophie Hesse-Kassel Queen Consort Denmark and Norway x 5

Caroline of Brunswick Queen Consort England x 93

Frederick William II King Prussia x 2

King Louis Philippe I of France x 2

Frederica Mecklenburg Strelitz Queen Consort Hanover x 6

King Christian I of Norway and VIII of Denmark x 181

Caroline Amalie Oldenburg Queen Norway x 20

Maria Christina of the Two Sicilies Queen Consort Spain x 2

Frederick VII King Denmark x 272

Queen Louise Hesse-Kassel of Denmark x 186

King Christian IX of Denmark x 35

Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom x 182

Queen Sophia of Sweden and Norway x 108

Victoria Empress Germany Queen Consort Prussia x 545

King Edward VII of the United Kingdom x 545

Victoria Mary Teck Queen Consort England x 10

Frederick Charles I King Finland x 186

Constantine I King Greece x 10

Alexandrine Mecklenburg-Schwerin Queen Consort Denmark x 282

Victoria Eugénie Mountbatten Queen Consort Spain x 551

Louise Mountbatten Queen Consort Sweden x 557

Ingrid Bernadotte Queen Consort Denmark x 545

Philip Mountbatten Duke Edinburgh x 567

Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom x 2185

Sophia Glücksburg Queen Consort Spain x 20

Constantine II King Hellenes x 20

Carl XVI King Sweden x 1145

Queen Consort Camilla Shand x 843

Diana Spencer Princess Wales x 7105

Catherine Middleton Princess of Wales x 22

Ancestors of King Alfred "The Great" of Wessex 849-899

Great x 4 Grandfather: Ingild Wessex

Great x 3 Grandfather: Eoppa Wessex

Great x 2 Grandfather: Eafa Wessex

Great x 1 Grandfather: Ealmund King of Kent

GrandFather: Egbert King Wessex

Father: King Æthelwulf of Wessex

King Alfred "The Great" of Wessex

GrandFather: Oslac

Mother: Osburgh Queen Consort Wessex