Turning a king into a hero
Nine hundred years of pre-Victorian reinvention
in ‘England’s darling’
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The mythologising that turned King Alfred into a hero began in his own lifetime. The earliest source that Victorian Alfredianists could turn to for information about the king was the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, a collection of annals about the British Isles spanning the period from the landing of Julius Caesar to the twelfth century. For nineteenth-century audiences, The Life of King Alfred, beyond any other early source, was what set Alfred the Great apart from other Anglo-Saxon monarchs. According to the Life, Alfred was also an inventor, devising time candles and lanterns to allow him to allot exactly half of his time to God's service. The fourteenth and fifteenth centuries saw Alfred get tangled up in minstrelsy, morality and university rivalry. In the case of Asser's Life, which Matthew Parker transcribed and printed in 1574, an eleventh-century manuscript of the text was conflated with the twelfth-century Annals of St Neots.

‘England’s darling’

The Victorian cult of Alfred the Great

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