King Alfred the Great from the ninth century was a significant ruler of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Wessex, a man whose life is marked by his relentless efforts to defend his kingdom against Viking invasions.
He is one of the most important figures of early English history and the only British King or Queen to be referred to as 'Great’. An important part of his remarkable story is set in Somerset, England.
According to legend, Alfred was in his early 20s when he ruled the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Wessex, an area covering much of southern England, from 871 until his death in 899.
From 871 onward, the young King faced repeated Viking attempts to invade his kingdom. An 878 invasion took Alfred by surprise and he hid at Athelney, in the marshlands of central Somerset to plot his counterattack with the men of Wiltshire and part of Hampshire. Alfred is said to have arrived in disguise at Athelney and took his refuge in a swineherd’s cottage. In another legend, Alfred set out from Athelney dressed as a minstrel and invaded the Danish camp to learn their secrets. He found them idle and explained to his men how to defeat their foes.