There’s nothing like a good book, sentiments shared by Alfred The Great.
Shortly after we had visited Winchester and photographed his statue, BBC television screened programmes about him on consecutive nights. The second of these involved the puzzle of the whereabouts of his much moved bones; by the end, all they had come up with was a piece of male pelvis from the ninth century. A disappointment for the scientists after the discovery of a whole Richard the Third in a car park. But bones are of no importance when we already know a great deal about the man himself and to see a historian turning the pages of a ninth century book is far more exciting than skeletons.
He lived from 849 to 899 and reigned from 871; Asser, a tenth century Welsh scholar and bishop, was commissioned by the king to write his biography. Alfred has come down through history as a learned and merciful man who knew the importance of education, improved the legal and military structure of his kingdom, negotiated peace with the Vikings and started England! The only English King to be called Great.
He caused to be translated from Latin into English the books he considered most necessary for all men to read. Books about him and books by him are a great legacy. Historical books can survive physically or by reprinting, either way the words are preserved for many centuries. Will our e-books survive this long, all the billions of words on the internet? Are you reading this in 2016 in 3116? The internet will only last until someone switches the electricity off.
Would the Great King have used the internet? I’m sure he would have embraced the possibilities for mass communication. Is Alfred The Great on Facebook? Yes, but perhaps not in a way he would have appreciated.
By Janet Gogerty
I write about anything and everything on my Goodreads blog ‘Sandscript’
and in my Beachwriter’s Blog on my website.