"..a bardy view!"

Alfred…A Great Guy!

Statue_d'Alfred_le_Grand_à_WinchesterIn 1899 the Victorians marked the 1000th anniversary of the death of Alfred the Great as the founder of England and saviour of its Christian faith.

In the BBC Millennium Poll of 2000, Alfred didn’t make it into the top ten list of greatest Britons.

Sometime during those one hundred years the British lost favour with her most revered son.

Alfred wasn’t called “great” for nothing. He is the only British king with the title.

So what happened between then and now to change our views, or if not change them, merely ignore his achievements? Perhaps it’s just too long ago?

Alfred did however make it into the top 100, along with such luminaries as David Beckham, Tony Blair, Robbie Williams and even Boy George.

I’ll pause at this point to allow you a gasp of astonishment…..

Some sense prevailed in the top ten. Winston Churchill came out at number one, followed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Princess Diana, Charles Darwin, William Shakespeare, Isaac Newton, Elizabeth I, John Lennon, Horatio Nelson and, in 10th place, Oliver Cromwell.

Bearing in mind that the poll was conducted 16 years ago, it’s possible that the nation had an unhealthy dose of celebrity worship and collective amnesia.

It was only three years after the death of Diana; the country was still euphoric basking in the afterglow of a new labour victory, and the nation had yet to be embroiled in the war on terror.

Although Tony Blair didn’t make it into the top ten he did make it into the top 100. If the poll was taken today, it’s highly unlikely he (and many others) would get a look in. The highest ranked living person at the time was Margaret Thatcher, coming in at #16.

60 of the top 100 were alive during the 20th century. Hence the poll was severely flawed for it was indicative of contemporary individuals and populist history. Surely Alfred was greater than John Lennon? Indeed he was, but he died in the 9th century, and not the 20th; nor was he a famous singer/songwriter. Imagine that!

Twelve years after the poll, both Churchill and Brunel played prominent roles in the opening ceremony at the London 2012 Olympics, and both coincidently topped the millennium poll of 2000, so perhaps there is some justice attached to it.

Back to Alfred the Great (those of you who have lost interest may leave now). Herewith follows a compact history lesson from a Bardy view:

When the Roman’s left Britain in AD 410, over 300 years of relative peace, stability and prosperity left along with them.

Her empire was under attack, Rome was in trouble and the legions needed to consolidate and attempt to fend off the vandals and barbarian hoards. For Britain, what followed was a period of substantial unrest, and is known today as the Dark Ages. It lasted for several hundred years, and England as we know it today did not exist. It became a place divided and ruled by feudal chiefs with a hotchpotch of kingdoms, the most powerful being Northumbria, Mercia, East Anglia and Wessex.

Wessex was the most powerful, and during the rules of Egbert (802-839) and Aethelwulf (839-858) it expanded to include most of the land south of the River Thames, although not the Mercian controlled area of London. It was
during these periods that England was under constant raiding parties from the Vikings and Norsemen of Scandinavia.

In 865 the Vikings landed with force and within ten years subjugated the kingdoms of Northumbria, East Anglia and Mercia. Wessex was the next in line.By this time Alfred’s elder brother Ethelred was King of Wessex, and together they confronted the invasion of Wessex in 871. But they failed to prevent the advance and during the battle Ethelred was killed. Wessex was the last surviving Anglo-Saxon domain, and if it fell, then the land would be completely ruled by the Vikings.

Alfred took the throne, and through bravery and intelligence, through methods of tactics and guerrilla warfare, eventually prevailed.

He became an honourable and wise king, uniting the kingdoms, constructing the country’s first navy, instigating law and order, and promoting education, with particular emphasis on the English language, art, culture, and successfully creating – out of the Anglo-Saxon diaspora – the nation of England.

That’s why he is known as Alfred the Great.

Perhaps if a new poll is taken, he can take his rightful place along with Churchill, Elizabeth I, and Nelson as one of the nation’s top ten greatest Britons.


May 6, 2016 Posted by | Arts, Books, Education, Europe, History, London, Politics, Religion, United Kingdom | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Wedding fever……

In recent weeks people could be forgiven for thinking that the royal wedding between Prince William and Catherine (Kate) Middleton was failing to generate national fervour. This snowball rolled slowly to gather mass, and many foreign correspondents observed a distinct lack of enthusiasm amongst the British.

What they failed to comprehend was the cultural psyche of a nation which has a tendency to adopt reserve. Contrary to the impression that they are attention seekers as evident on reality tv shows and the behaviour of some to expose their butts in holiday resorts like Southern Spain and Thailand, and generally being literal pains in the arse for the locals, the majority don't wear their pride on their sleeve.

Indeed, such is the phenomena of health and safety, the Prime Minister made a point of saying that people should go out and celebrate with street parties and not fear killjoy councils who may be too exuberant in exercising local by-laws. Thirty years ago when Charles and Diana got hitched, such considerations where a non-issue.

Perhaps it is was the culture of insidious state control, and the thousands of new laws which the previous Labour government implemented over thirteen years, which stifled the people and in essence made them brow-beaten.

The willingness was there, but for some reason indigenous cultural celebration became dirty words. It is for this reason, even for those who are indifferent about this royal wedding or opposed to the institution of monarchy, that we should be celebrating. We have been freed from our shackles. The yoke of socialist despair and misery is on the back foot, and for all our financial troubles and economic cuts, April 29th is a day to stand up, shout and wave the Union Jack.

Stirring stuff. But this wedding is unique because thanks to the internet it will be viewed globally by more than 2 billion people. This level of advertising is priceless, and no other city in the world could hope for such exposure.

So let us celebrate the pomp and circumstance, and hope that the event comes off with military precision. It's a huge logistical task, and a showcase for everything that Great Britain has got to give. To say that this is the right place at the right time would be an understatement, and as a trial run for the Olympic Games it is an opportunity that every previous Olympic host city would have sacrificed several gold medals for.

The eyes of the world will be on London this Friday. So let the anarchists, terrorists and religious extremists spout their bilious vile and threats of disruption. And whilst they do that, perhaps they may consider the freedom of living in a country which permits them to do so.

For once, just once, let the people enjoy their day, and allow the world to know who the British really are.

April 27, 2011 Posted by | Culture, Current Affairs, Events, History, Travel, United Kingdom | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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