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Who first called King Alfred “Alfred the Great”?


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As the first to call himself “King of the Anglo-Saxons,” the first to coin the term “England,” and a promoter of learning and scholarship in the last ten years of his reign, during which he translated Latin to Anglo-Saxon to preserve or resurrect literature including books of his own—the last of his “royal” rank to do so until Henry VIII—Alfred has plenty of reason to be the only English king to bear the sobriquet “the Great.” As far as my distinguished colleague Dana Huntley (editor of British Heritage) knows, however, the first individual to use the epithet may be lost to history. It is most likely to have been coined, he says, “in the early Middle Ages, perhaps 13th – 14th century, as part of the development of ‘Romance’ and chivalry and the attempt to paint a picture of a glorious English past (King Arthur was a part of that).”



Jon Guttman
Research Director
World History Group
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