History with Crusader Kings: Alfred

The soon-to-be-King Alfred is one of the recommended starts for experienced players. In Crusader Kings, he begins as the Earl of Dorset serving under his brother, Æthelred.

Æthelred would have his hands full with a defensive alliance against the great Viking invasion. It is very likely for Æthelred to die in the war, leading to your ascension and the inheritance of his wars.

If you’ve seen the article on Ivar “the Boneless“, then you know you likely have no chance of victory. There is an argument to be made to just let them win the war for now. Bide your time and strike back once the two Viking rulers Ivar and Halfdan die.

While not the most historically accurate, Æthelred’s quicker death is key to Alfred’s inheritance. Once the ruler of Wessex, plans must be made if you wish to unite England under your banner; a challenging road fit for “the Great”.

Alfred’s greatest strength is his all-round high stats as a ruler, lacking only in intrigue. Alfred is depicted as a highly capable and learned leader. This is not that far off from his historical counterpart.

Alfred won his people through reforms in education and law; not forgetting however his leadership in facing the Viking threat. Many a later historian would laude him as the perfect medieval king for his piety, justice and noble vision.

A Ruler’s Journey

Image source: wikipedia.com

Alfred was born the youngest among his brothers. His mother, Osburh, plays a significant role in influencing Alfred’s development as a ruler. Osburh was a religious and intelligent figure—a paragon of learning.

Alfred would learn poetry even before he could read, through listening and reciting. This scholarly upbringing had made him seem the least capable to pick up the torch against Viking encroachment; Alfred would prove them wrong.

Now we are back at the beginning of the game. Ivar and his brothers are invading Britain, and Alfred’s brother is currently sitting on the throne of Wessex. They would clash first at reading, leading to a loss. Bouncing back from this loss, they would win their next encounter in Ashdown.

An account of this battle would state that Æthelred did not take part, as he was still in prayer. Some would disagree with this, saying that Æthelred likely took part as well. Regardless, this was an important battle for Alfred, showcasing his skill in command and combat.

The brothers would be emboldened, and pursued the Vikings; the ensuing battle would be a loss. Æthelred would soon die and Alfred would become king.

An Exemplary Tale

Image source: wikipedia.com

Alfred would continue his campaigns against the Vikings as king.

After a surprise raid that saw a massacre of the town of Chippenham, Alfred would end up in exile alongside his family, several nobles, and a handful of their soldiers.

Here a tale would be written about an encounter Alfred had with the housewife of a villager. The tale tells that Alfred, travelling alone, came upon a cottage whereupon he’d ask for hospitality. The family would take him in for a few days without knowledge of his identity. One day, the housewife left bread to bake while she went about her housekeeping duties. When the smell of burning bread began to spread, she’d quickly ran over to the oven.

Seeing that Alfred was nearby, she’d chastise him for not taking action when he could have. Alfred here would show his humility and grace even as king. He never revealed his identity nor did he bark back, he accepted the scolding and ended up helping bake the bread.

The Great

Image source: wikipedia.com

He’d remain in exile for less than three months, biding his time. Through a network of spies and loyal chiefs, Alfred would successfully wage a guerilla war against the Vikings. By 878, he’d have assembled enough of a force to take them head on once more. Alfred would pull a victory and had his captives convert to Christianity before telling them to leave Wessex alone. It was after this event when Alfred began rebuilding, reforming and innovating to better protect and provide to his kingdom. Though not completely devoid of Viking raids, there was plenty more breathing room for him to finally raise his realm to greatness.

Alfred would later reconquer London and would spur a sense of unity for the English people. Mercia would join into an alliance with Alfred and England would head towards a unification.

Though not yet truly headed to the England we know of today, Alfred’s legacy leaves its mark on English history and several of its institutions to this day; truly a man worthy of the title “the Great”.

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