Posted by: secretperson | January 3, 2008

Alfred the Great Statue Attacked

A statue of King Alfred the Great was vandalised in Wantage, Oxfordshire on Monday night. His arm, carrying an axe, was removed by ‘a group of boys’. While I deplore any vandalism, what is particularly sad is that these youths probably had no appreciation of Alfred, or what he stood for. Except perhaps for burning some cakes.

Alfred is the only English King to be called great (Cnut the Great, a Dane, did rule over England) and with good reason. From a position of desperation, in the marshes of Athelney, when the very existence of English rule over the various Kingdoms existing in what is now England was under threat, Alfred set the scene for the establishment of the Kingdom of England. Defeating the Vikings, notably Guthrum, he came from dethroned ruler of Wessex, to King of all the Englsih people not under Danish rule. And the ruling Danes owed allegiance to Alfred. He set in motion the establishment of a single English state for the already recognised English people under his Grandson Athelstan. It is not for nothing that Justin Pollard subtitles his biography of Alfred, “the man who made England”.

Not only did he establish the country I love, but he was a ruler that really believed in duty as well as power. Under his rule the books ‘necessary for men to know’ were translated from latin into English (Anglo-saxon at the time) in order that people might read them. The Anglo-Saxon chronicle was started, also in English. This connection with the people, so different to the aloof Norman oppressors who would follow two centuries on, should be an inspiration to us all. Alfred also built ships and is regarded sometimes as the founder of the English naval tradition, and established towns called burghs which helped with the defence of the kingdom and started many towns still known to this day.

I hope for a reestablishment of the state of England, and an England in which great figures in our past are celebrated. For without understanding of how England came to be we lose something in our understanding of how best it should be managed today. And let there be no doubt. If there was no Alfred the Great, there would be no England.

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