‘The root and spring of everything we love in church and state’
Alfred and Victorian progress
in ‘England’s darling’
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Hailing King Alfred as the source of much of Britain's law was a means of giving a reassuring aura of stability and permanence to a fast-changing area of modern life. This chapter recognizes both the dominance of Victorian narratives of social progress. The fact that trial-by-jury was cited in Victorian rhetoric as a beneficial export to the colonies, also no doubt increased concern to establish an early, native origin for the practice. Spelman's The Life of Alfred the Great was the best-known biography of Alfred for the first half of the nineteenth century, and Thomas Hughes's was the most popular in the latter decades of the Victorian period. It was Spelman who first associated Alfred's new ships with the highly successful modern British 'navy'. The druid's prophecy about the union of Great Britain links the alliance intrinsically to the growth and success of the British Empire.

‘England’s darling’

The Victorian cult of Alfred the Great


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