King Alfred the Great
Now here’s a king of England you don’t hear much about, especially surprising given that he is the only British monarch ever to have “the Great” put after his name. So why don’t we hear about this guy more often? Because he was from the pre-Norman era (Battle of Hastings – 1066, and all that, as the Brits would say). You’ve probably heard mention of the Battle of Hastings, but why? Many historians consider it to be a major turning point in British history. Until the Normans (from Normandy, on the continent, in what is today France) conquered England in 1066, England was pretty much an isolated island without benefit of easy proximity to the more advanced civilizations in the rest of Europe and around the Mediterranean. The Normans literally brought a boatload of know-how to the shores of England.
Not that the Anglo-Saxons were happy about it. Although they yielded without much of a fight to the Normans – perhaps because they didn’t have the same advances in the technology of warfare, such as it was – they resisted Norman culture for centuries. And if the novel Ivanhoe had any basis in historical accuracy, they mourned the death of their greatest king, Alfred, for centuries after he was gone. Alfred was an educated man, and was known for the great strides he made in bringing education and justice to his people. And for keeping those pesky Vikings from invading England. If it hadn’t been for Alfred, the Normans may have had Viking warriors to contend with in 1066, and who knows where we would be today. Good to see that someone still acknowledges his contributions.