So, anyone catching the VIKINGS miniseries on the History Channel? If so, you will notice that this season they suddenly got the idea to actually settle in what would become England, instead of just raiding it. This they did, eventually establishing "Danelaw" over half the island. They continued to harry the Anglo-Saxons, until the only unconquered remnant had been chased into the Somerset Marshes. That’s right. The culture from which sprung our language, our Common Law and liberty was nearly extinguished – holding only a tiny mound of upland in a marsh.

Their king was no heroic figure. He took the throne only after several of his brothers died, and was in poor health (possibly Crohn’s disease). He would much rather sharpen his Latin than his sword. But he led them out, and after many see-saw battles finally defeated the Vikings at Edington, and actually converted the local Viking king to Christianity. Alfred used the temporary peace wisely. He built mutually supporting forts no more than 20 miles apart(the borough system). He organized the militia on a rota basis so that there would always be a force in readiness. He built up the navy to intercept before raiders could land.

But that was just the beginning. Afred translated classical works from Latin to Anglo-Saxon. He established schools for even "a good many of those of lesser birth." He codified the law, and began that work with a translation of the 10 Commandments, parts of Exodus, and verses from the Book of Acts. As to his motivation we will let him speak: "My will was to live worthily as long as I lived, and after my life to leave to them that should come after my memory in good works." WE are those who came after – and for his works he, alone among more than a 1000 years of English monarchs, is called "The Great."

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