Alfred the Great

Alfred the Great

King of Literacy

The “greatest” king of all time also lays claim to encouraging literacy. Alfred the Great, ruling from 871 to 899 A.D. was the son of King Ethelwulf, a ruler of England’s southwest region. From an early age, Alfred showed promise in the ways of English prose and poetry. Some years later, he vanquished the nasty Vikings and was hailed the conquering hero. That, of course, is the briefest of versions. Left with the burden of leadership, he set about revitalizing education by importing scholars and creating a “Court School.” He also encouraged commoners to educate themselves in reading, which contributed to his popularity.

Alfred the Great didn’t leave all the work of translating Latin into Anglo-Saxon to his hired help. He took it upon himself to make conversions, including scriptures from the Holy Bible. Some of his earliest works are lost forever, but others remain revered today. Those translated works include the Preface to the “Dialogues of Gregory,” St. Augustine’s Soliloquies, and Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of England. He was also well-regarded for injecting his own thoughts and interpretations into these pieces. One such well-known passage is “My will was to live worthily as long as I lived; and after my life to leave to them who would come after me, my memory in good works.”

Among his last writings is another impactful statement. “He seems to me a very foolish man and very wretched, who will not increase his understanding while he is in the World and ever wish and long to reach that endless life where all shall be made clear.”

During his reign, he would continue to tackle Biblical events, turning them into his largest piece, the “Law Code.” By the time of his death, he was widely known as “king of the English.”