Medievalism, Anglo-Saxonism and the nineteenth century
in ‘England’s darling’
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This chapter outlines the general conditions and contexts which allowed the cult of an Anglo-Saxon king to flourish in nineteenth-century England. Arguably the most pervasive aspect of nineteenth-century medievalism was Anglo-Saxonism, the study and celebration of the Anglo-Saxon period. The medieval became the period of British history most commonly trumpeted as equivalent in prestige to the classical, partly because it was simply the earliest age to be fully documented. Arthur Conan Doyle's story about the Nelson statue introduces a factor which fed into the Victorian fascination with history, the role of fine art. King Arthur makes an interesting point of reference in considering the nineteenth-century cult of King Alfred. In his 1901 tract, God Save King Alfred, the Reverend Edward Gilliat proclaimed that while Alfred had 'united Anglekin in England', Victoria had 'united a wider Anglekin the world over'.

‘England’s darling’

The Victorian cult of Alfred the Great

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