Alfred the Great 849-99
King Alfred, sometimes called Alfred the great was born
in the year 849 and his connection with Basingstoke is that in the year 871 he
fought the Danes at Basing. Alfred was the youngest son of
King Æthelwulf, he was a deeply
religious man and his life was marked by ill health. When Æthelred,
Alfred's brother, became King of Wessex in 865 Alfred became his
viceroy and fought for his brother against the Danes. The Danes
were at this time threatening to overrun the whole of England and
in the year 870 the Danes began their assault on Wessex. Æthelred
and his brother Alfred had several battles with the Danes,
including the battle at Basing where Alfred was defeated by the Danes.
When Æthelred died in 871, Alfred became king of the West Saxons and overlord of Kent, Surrey, Sussex, and Essex.
Alfred realised that the Danes were too strong to defeat and so he
cleared them from Wessex by payment of tribute. He used the next
five years to build up his armed forces and when in 876 the Danes returned
Alfred's army was big enough to defeat them, the Danes left
swearing never to return. But in the year 878 the Danes broke
their word and launched a surprise invasion on Wessex and defeated
Alfred's army and Alfred fled to Athelney in the fens of Somerset.
From here he launched raids against the Danes and the famous
legend arose of him burning an old woman's cakes and being told
off by her as she didn't recognise who he was.
In 878 Alfred once more took his
troops into battle and finally defeated the Danes at the battle of
Edington. He then dictated the Peace of Chippenham where Guthrum, the Danish leader, accepted Christian
baptism. In 886 Alfred captured London from Guthrum which
made Alfred ruler of the south and west of England. Between 892
and 896 the Danes renewed there attempts at invasion but were
finally defeated by Alfred and peace came to Wessex.
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