The Feast Day of Alfred the Great is celebrated today, October 26th. King Alfred, who lived from 849-899 was King of the West-Saxons of England. Alfred came to the throne in 871 and in 875 beat back an attack on England from the Danes. After their loss, the Danes attacked again in 876, 877, and 878 when Alfred finally defeated them. As part of their peace agreement with Alfred, the Dane’s leader, Guthrum, agreed to be baptized.
Alfred made multiple contributions to English life in the areas of education, law, and religion. He is noted for translating the work of Pope Gregory the Great on pastoral care, the Ecclesiastical History of the English People by the Venerable Bede, a work which is readily available to this day. He also sought to appointed well qualified abbots and bishops, and took the spiritual care of his subjects very seriously. Because of his work in the area of religion and education, as well as helping to unify England, he is commemorated as a Saint by the Anglican Communion.
“O Sovereign Lord, you brought your servant Alfred to a troubled throne that he might establish peace in a ravaged land and revive learning and the arts among the people: Awake in us also a keen desire to increase our understanding while we are in this world, and an eager longing to reach that endless life where all will be made clear; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”
The BBC’s A History of Britain episode on the English Reformation continues with Simon Schama’s Burning Convictions, Parts II and III: