Was Alfred the Great a good monarch?

Essay by redbull2728High School, 11th gradeA+, April 2010

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Aran Kanagaratnam II/ISS DAP

Alfred the Great

Very few monarchs have been as successful as Alfred, proved by his title 'the Great'. However this ninth century monarch of the Western Saxons achieved much in his reign, demonstrating military skill and innovation, governance that inspired his followers, a revision of the law, but most importantly the promotion of scholarship and education. It is because of these vital reforms, at a period where Britain was under constant attack from the Vikings, who were extremely fearsome warriors, that so many important people and historians have lauded him with praise. Winston Churchill once described him as 'the greatest Englishman who ever lived'.

The main reason why Alfred felt a need to improve education during his reign was because the monasteries and churches, (which were the centres of learning and education) were under unceasing attack from the Vikings and thus many books and other artefacts had been raided.

Alfred, being a devout Christian, believed that the Viking raids were a punishment from God for people's sins, specifically the decline in learning. He offered patronage to scholars across Britain and Wales and he himself learnt Latin, translating works such as Boethius' The Consolations of Philosophy into Anglo-Saxon poetry over a period of over twenty years from 871 A.D till 899 A.D. This work furthered the Anglo-Saxon language and for this alone Alfred should be commended; as only monks and a few others knew Latin and thus advanced the Anglo-Saxon language. By doing this he set an example to his people: that even in these Dark times when Wessex was struggling to keep the Vikings out, he still valued a society that valued learning and education. According to Asser (the Welsh monk who was commissioned by Alfred to write his biography in 893) Alfred, 'believed that learning...