The hero as king
Alfred and nineteenth-century politics
in ‘England’s darling’
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This chapter discusses the ways in which Victorian rewriters portrayed the Saxon as an ideal king, whether that meant an absolute monarch, a limited sovereign, a warrior-hero, or a wise and aged ruler. In using the construction of the Athelney fort as a means of demonstrating exemplary patriotism G.A. Henty was in a minority, far more nineteenth-century writers employed it as a way of demonstrating King Alfred's common touch, his empathy with his subjects. Alfred as a physically pre-eminent warrior and Alfred as a duellist both continued as motifs in early nineteenth-century texts. Thomas Carlyle's sustained importance to the Victorian cult of Alfred is perhaps best demonstrated by his direct and pervasive influence upon a writer working many years after him, Thomas Hughes. Hughes's decision to write a biography of Alfred was an explicitly political action.

‘England’s darling’

The Victorian cult of Alfred the Great


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