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The White Horse King: The Life of Alfred the Great
by Benjamin R. Merkle

The White Horse King Alfred, King of Wessex, came to power in one of England’s most difficult times. He was a true hero saving England from the Vikings who had overrun England. He gathered together the remnants of an army and the villages and communities not under Viking control to defeat the destructive and savage invaders. It was the first time England was under the rule of one king.

After peace came decades later, Alfred proceeded to bring literacy to the people by transcribing books and requiring his army to read them. He wrote laws that later became the foundation of the Anglo-American legal system. He set the stage for the revival of Christian worship and restructured the roadways of the country. The only king to be named ‘the Great’, the author feels his title was well deserved and well earned.

The book details the fascinating stories of the Viking raids on Britain which took place regularly before and during Alfred’s early childhood and adulthood. Born in AD 849 Alfred traveled to France and on to Rome at the age of four but returned to Wessex in AD 854. He went on a return journey with his father staying in Rome for a year. After their return to Wessex his father and three of his older brothers died, leaving him second in line to the throne.

The Vikings, having decided to stay in Britain, conquered Mercia, Northumbria, and East Anglia, then moved on to Wessex in AD 780. Alfred’s first taste of combat took place soon after, but it was his second encounter a few days later that resulted in victory. After a number of other battles, Alfred’s last older brother was killed, resulting in Alfred becoming king in AD 871. But he would continue to fight the Vikings for his entire life. The book details the many battles he fought against crushing odds, but it was these battles that earned him the title “The Great”.

After winning many battles with the Vikings King Alfred spent time rebuilding Wessex and establishing a disciplined fighting force as well as a navy and a community of scholars. He revived literacy in Anglo-Saxon Britain, establishing schools in the parishes. He had many Latin language books transcribed. If that were not enough, he then embarked on a major reworking of the law codes and legal policies.

In AD 892 the Vikings once again struck with a huge force. After many battles, peace was briefly restored in AD 894, but finally achieved in AD 896. King Alfred died in AD 899 after reigning 28.5 years.

Written in an accessible and narrative style the book makes for entertaining reading as well as accurate historical detail. The book includes a helpful family tree and chronology. An index and bibliography are provided. Sidebars give background information on various topics.

Author Benjamin R. Merkle is a Fellow of Theology and Classical Languages at New Saint Andrews College and a Contributing Editor to Credenda/Agenda. He received an MA in English Literature from the University of Idaho, an MS in Jewish Studies at the University of Oxford, and is currently pursuing his doctorate at the University of Oxford.

The White Horse King
Published: 2009
Published by: Thomas Nelson in US
Web: Thomas Nelson
Pages: 256
ISBN: 978-1-5955-5252-5

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