Had Alfred only delivered his people from the plundering Danes whom he defeated at Edington, then his contribution would have been significant and worthy of rememberance, but he would not have been worthy of the legendary status the the name King Alfred has acquired over the years. He would not have been King Alfred the Great.
Benjamin Merkle’s first book, The White Horse King: The Life of Alfred the Great was released last November and is a great first deposit into the publication pool. I am, after reading it, fully endeared-to and thankful-for the man who was only English king to ever be called “the Great.” This story is a readable, action-packed, probing look at the man who played an enormous role in defending, stabilizing and then civilizing a fragmented kingdom that would later become what we call England, which would later play a crucial role in the democratic and orderly governments of many other major countries, including the one most of my readers call home.
The bulk of the book is the story of Alfred’s attempts to rid his land of innumerable waves of marauding Vikings who pillaged and ravaged wherever they went. They were a formidable and constant enemy to Alfred for almost every bit of his 50 years. But the story of how Alfred turned them to flight was also an evolution of thought (changing the mind and pattern of a nation) and also the story of the value of righteousness and honoring Christ in pattern and traditions. It was no easy process, but in his end, he was honored with this inscription on a statue that stands in Wantage:
Alfred found learning dead and he restored it, education neglected and he revived it, the laws powerless and he gave them force, the church debased and he raised it, the land ravaged by a fearful enemy from which he delivered it. Alfred’s name shall live as long as mankind shall respect the past.
And so, 1,111 years after his death, King Alfred’s name and deeds are remembered again–this time here in Nashville, TN. His name will be promoted on this blog, in my memory, to my 5 little ones and wife, and to those with whom I can muster an opportunity to bring this story to note. The great ring-giver will live on in this way.
(Also, you will love the redemptive story of the man who was called Guthrum.)