22 April 2007

King Saint Alfred the Great

I have been reading a bit more this morning about who might very well be my favorite historic king: Alfred the Great of England (ca. 849-899).

One story about this holy king might help to illustrate why I choose him among my favorites.

It is said that as Alfred retreated from one battle through the Somerset Levels he was welcome with his small band into the home of a peasant woman.

She, unaware of his true identity, left the home and told Alfred to attend to the cakes she left baking on the fire. Alfred grew distracted by the battles and allowed the cakes to burn.

Upon her return, the woman naturally reprimanded Alfred for his failure. When she learned of his kingship, she apologized profusely, but Alfred refused to accept her apology, saying that she was, afterall, quite right: it was his fault the cakes were burnt.

The only king of England to be titled, "the Great," Alfred compiled a book of Adages and he has a great many other quotable phrases found elsewhere. Some of these include the following:

Therefore he seems to me a very foolish man, and truly wretched, who will not increase his understanding while he is in the world, and ever wish and long to reach that endless life where all shall be made clear.
Power is never good, unless the one who has it is good.
The saddest thing for a man is that he be ignorant; the most exciting is that he knows.
Somewhere Alfred also said something to the effect of always having with him - and encouraging others to do the same - Pope Saint Gregory the Great's Pastoral Care, but I cannot seem to find that quote at the moment.


  1. Alfred translated that work and wrote a preface to it. The quote's probably from that.

  2. My late grandfather, also named Alfred, used to love to tell me this story when I was young. I loved it!

    Fuuny guy, that Alfred.

  3. Thanks, Andrew! I don't think we have any Alfred's in my family, but I'll suggest it to my brother :)

  4. Thank you for the post, Father. I have been looking everywhere to see if there is any group devoted to St. Alfred. I think this country--England's child and his--is in great need of his intercession and his wisdom right now. Why doesn't the Church speak more about him?


  5. Hi Father,

    I was blessed with a son earlier this month and we chose the name Alfred after Saint Alfred the Great... upon further research I cannot find concrete evidence that he is in fact a canonized saint. Do you by chance have access to this information? I would like to know what pope canonized him, when and his feast day.

    All I was able to find on the question was:
    Alfred the Great "is regarded as a saint by some Catholics, but an attempt by king Henry VI in 1441 to get him canonized was unsuccessful. The Anglican Communion venerates him as a Christian hero, with a feast day of 26 October, and he may often be found depicted in stained glass in Church of England parish churches." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_the_Great

    Thank you in advance for your help.

    God Bless,

    1. I'm sorry for the delay here, Veronica. I've been looking for a confirmation on Alfred's status as a saint but have been unable to locate it.