Alfred the Great was King of Wessex from 871 to 899. Alfred successfully defended his kingdom against the Viking attempt at conquest, and by the time of his death had become the dominant ruler in England. He is one of only two English monarchs to be given the epithet “the Great”, the other being the Scandinavian Cnut the Great. He was also the first King of the West Saxons to style himself “King of the Anglo-Saxons”. Details of Alfred’s life are described in a work by the 10th-century Welsh scholar and bishop Asser.
Alfred had a reputation as a learned and merciful man of a gracious and level-headed nature who encouraged education, proposing that primary education be taught in English, and improved his kingdom’s legal system, military structure and his people’s quality of life. In 2002, Alfred was ranked number 14 in the BBC’s poll of the 100 Greatest Britons.