courtesy of Clas Merdin: Tales from the Enchanted Island: King Alfred and the Anglo-Saxons
"King Alfred and the Anglo-Saxons"
In Michael Wood's television debut back in 1980 he focused on Alfred the Great as part of the series In Search Of The Dark Ages
. Wood now returns to Alfred in a major three-part television series on BBC Four commencing next Tuesday 6th August at 9.00 pm. King Alfred and the Anglo-Saxons
examines the careers of King Alfred the Great, the Lady Ęthelflęd, his daughter, and King Athelstan, his grandson and first king of all England.
Alfred the Great, probably the best-known Anglo-Saxon king, reigned 871899, is famously remembered for burning the cakes. The son of King Ęthelwulf of Wessex, Alfred succeeded his three older brothers to the throne in 871. At that time, Danish invaders had conquered much of England, and Alfred struggled to prevent Wessex from succumbing to the same fate.
From his retreat to The Isle of Athelney in the Somerset marshes, Alfred launched the Anglo-Saxon recovery leading to the decisive victory over the Great Heathen Army of Guthrum at the Battle of Edington in May 878. King Alfred went on to establish towns, trade and coinage, reviving learning and literacy, laying the foundations of a single kingdom of 'all the English'
Episode 1 Alfred Of Wessex, 6 August
The first episode of the series shows Alfred fighting a desperate guerrilla war from the marshes of Somerset leading to the battle at Edington. Filmed on location from Reading to Rome, using original texts read in Old English, and interviews with leading scholars, Michael Wood describes a man who was not just the greatest Briton, but one of the greatest rulers of any time or place
Episode 2 The Lady Of The Mercians, 13 August
The second episode sees Alfreds children continue the family plan to create a kingdom of all the English. The tale begins with a savage Civil War in a bleak decade of snow and famine, culminating in an epic victory over the Vikings near Wolverhampton in 910. The key figure in this episode is Alfreds daughter Ęthelflęd, the ruler of Mercia. Michael Wood recovers her story from a copy of a lost chronicle written in Mercia in her lifetime. One of the great forgotten figures in British history, Ęthelflęd led armies, built fortresses, campaigned against the Danes and was a brilliant diplomat. Her fame spread across the British Isles, beloved by her warriors and her people she was known simply as 'The Lady of the Mercians
. Wood concludes that without her England might never have happened.
Episode 3 Ęthelstan: The First King Of England, 20 August.
In the third episode, Alfreds grandson Ęthelstan fulfils the family plan and creates a kingdom of all England. Here Wood tells of Ęthelstans wars, his learning and his lawmaking and shows how he created a national coinage and traces the origin of the English Parliament to the kings new assembly politics. But theres also a dark side, with later legends that the king had his brother drowned at sea. In his last desperate struggle, Ęthelstan defeated a huge invasion of Danes and Scots in what became known as the Anglo‐Saxon Great War. Wood argues, Ęthelstan was one of the greatest English monarchs, and with his grandfather Alfred, his father Edward and his aunt Ęthelflęd, a member of our most remarkable royal family, and even more than the Tudors, the most gifted and influential rulers in British history.