Alfred the Great (Old English: Ælfrēd; c. 849 – October 26, c. 899), also spelt Ælfred, was king of the southern Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Wessex from 871 to 899. Alfred is noted for his defence of the kingdom against the Danish Vikings, becoming the only English King to be awarded the epithet “the Great”. Alfred was the first King of the West Saxons to style himself “King of the English”. Details of his life are discussed in a work by the Welsh scholar Asser. Alfred was a learned man, and encouraged education and improved his kingdom’s law system as well as its military structure.
A popular legend originating from early twelfth century chronicles, tells how when King Alfred first fled to the Somerset Levels, he was given shelter by a peasant woman who, unaware of his identity, left him to watch some cakes she had left cooking on the fire. Preoccupied with the problems of his kingdom, Alfred accidentally let the cakes burn and was taken to task by the woman upon her return. Upon realising the king’s identity, the woman apologised profusely, but Alfred insisted that he was the one who needed to apologise.
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