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was carried on with marvellous completeness by his followers. Learning, therefore, flourished in Ireland, and students flocked thither from England, Germany, and Gaul. The land was luminous with churches and monasteries, but these were blotted out by the Danes, who drove the native Irish back into the swamps and bogs, and then made their own homes along the sea-coast.

Such was the miserable condition of England and its immediate neighbors, when one of the greatest characters in English history appeared on the scene, and through his life and achievements accomplished a work for his country whose grandeur and importance have never been surpassed. This heroic figure, whose millennary was celebrated with imposing ceremonies in 1901, was ALFRED THE GREAT. It is fitting that so illustrious a personage should receive special attention in these pages.

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LFRED was the fifth son of Ethelwulf, King of Wessex, and of Osburh, his first wife, and was born at Wantage in Berkshire in 849. The father, it is said, had been Bishop of Winchester until necessity made him king. He fought the invading Northmen while under-king of Kent, and afterward succeeded his father Egbert on the throne. .

Ethelwulf, however, had a side to his character for which the Witan or "wise men" felt little sympathy. He was impressed by the spell which the name of Rome exercised in the Middle Ages, and disregarded many claims of his kingdom in order to make a pilgrimage to the Eternal City. Before leaving, he granted a tenth part of the rents from his private domain for ecclesiastical and charitable purposes, and this grant was afterward mistakenly represented as a gift of the tenth of the entire revenue of the kingdom, and as the legal origin of tithes.

Little is known of the mother of Alfred, who was the daughter of the King's cupbearer, and came of the royal house of the Jutes, settled in the Isle of Wight. The following incident as recorded by a chronicler of the time throws light on the introduction of Alfred to book-learning: "On a certain day [he was then twelve years old, and had thus far remained illiterate] his mother was showing him and his brothers a beautiful book of songs, with rich pictures and fine painted initial letters, and she said to them: 'Whichever of you shall first learn this book shall have it for his own.' Then Alfred, moved by these

words, or rather by a divine inspiration, and allured by the illuminated letters, spoke before his brothers, who, though his seniors in years, were not so in grace, and answered: 'Will you really give that book to the one of us who can first understand and repeat it to you?' Upon which his mother smiled and repeated what she had said. So Alfred took the book from her hand and went to his master to get it read, and, in due time, brought it again to his mother and recited it; so it became his own."

Alfred's visit to Rome is supposed to have lasted about two years, and with this visit no doubt should be associated the main part of his formal education. He probably acquired a fair knowledge of Latin, and thus gained the key to the learning accessible at the time. There, too, he must have imbibed that fondness for literature which led him to translate what he looked upon as the classics in science, literature, and religion. On his way home, he remained for some months with his father at the Court of Charles the Bald, King of the Western Franks, and there he tasted of the best phases of medieval monarchy.

When Æthelwulf and his son left the court of Charles the Bald, the father was past sixty years of age, and took with him as his bride Judith, the daughter of Charles, a maiden not more than twelve. His people refused to receive him, for the leaders of Wessex had sworn an oath to bestow the crown upon his son Æthelbald. The father complacently accepted the situation and withdrew to Kent, where he ruled as under-king for two years. His death was followed by the scandalous marriage of his widow to Ethelbald, but to neither did she bear any children, and her second husband passed away in 860.

At this point an interesting fact must be noted. Returning to her father, Judith eloped with Baldwin I., of Flanders, and from the couple descended the Matilda, daughter of Baldwin V. of Flanders, who became the wife of William the Conqueror. Alfred's daughter married Judith's son, and thus was framed the link which binds King Edward VII. to his illustrious predecessor of more than a thousand years ago.

Æthelwulf set up for the first time in English history the claim to bequeath the crown as he chose. He willed that at his death it should pass to Æthelstan, his eldest son, then to Æthelbald, to Æthelred, and thence to Alfred, the children of each being excluded. Ethelbert, standing in order of age between Æthelbald and Ethelred, was to remain after his father's death under-king of Kent.

While this arrangement suited the persons chiefly concerned, it by no means suited the Witan, who, seeing the need of a united kingdom as a protection against the Danes, set the will aside, and decided to take their kings in order from the royal family. A condition as unparalleled as it was fortunate was that there was not a spark of jealousy among the brothers. Whoever was

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