230 – Guthrum Gets a Bath

For Alfred, everything had changed at Chippenham. It was at Chippenham where he had lost his crown and his kingdom… it’s also possible that he was the victim of a coup, considering how Guthrum’s conquest had gone virtually unchallenged. Chippenham was a place of great shame for the House of Wessex.

That is, until now. Now Chippenham was the site of his reinstatement. It had taken a mere matter of months and here Alfred was in May with Guthrum locked behind the walls of the Vill, and he had no choice but to surrender. Here, at Chippenham, Alfred was finally ascendant.

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  1. So your saying wessex would have survived anyway even If Alfred would have died or not won the battle of Eddington?

    Intresting, I know England was not a formed country, but never heard after all the stuff I have read and seen about hm he never saved his Kingdom from King Guthrum’s Viking rule, . Even the most recent docs of historian Neil Oliver and Micheal Wood.

    1. I’ve been addressing this on Twitter as well. Nuance is key here, and what I said isn’t fringe. In fact, it came up in a number of sources, and it’s rather simple.

      The myth is that he saved England from the Vikings. That isn’t true.
      1) There wasn’t an England, and most of what would become England was occupied throughout his life.
      2) The Vikings were still active, including within Wessex.

      What he did was rid his kingdom of Guthrum. But on that same year, Fulham was occupied by “pirates” meaning Vikings. So the idea that he “saved” the kingdom isn’t accurate. What he did was retake Wessex from Guthrum’s occupation. That’s not the same thing, and we should speak with specificity about what he did. Nuance is important, especially in history, and all this nonsense of “we’d all be speaking Danish” and the myths that make it sound like Britain was 100% viking free actually hurt our understanding of the past (and of Alfred). It also undercuts what he did AFTER the Battle of Edington, which was just as vital (if not moreso) than anything he did on AEthelney.

      Furthermore, these myths undercut the rebellions that were occurring independent of Alfred. Odda of Devon doesn’t appear to have been acting under Alfred’s direction, for example. And AEthelnoth of Somerset and his warbands played a massive role in Alfred’s rebellion, with reports being that prior to his arrival, Alfred was just hanging out with a small band of supporters. But when we say that Alfred saved England, it erases a ton of stuff, inserts a bunch of things that didn’t exist about the politics of Britain, and really undercuts much of what makes this story amazing.

      What Alfred did was quite a feat, and I’ve devoted months of episodes on him so it’s not like I’m disparaging him, but we should be clear about what he did and didn’t do rather than just perpetuating myths.

    1. I hope you enjoy the lecture! And I suspect that Wood will say the same thing that I have… that Alfred retook the kingdom from Guthrum and did a lot (and a lot that his kids and, especially his grandson, were able to build upon) but he didn’t “save” England, and even saying that he saved Wessex is a bit too far of a stretch considering the state of Wessex at the time.

      Though, as I said, he certainly did a lot for Wessex, which would later include some fantastic reforms that (in my opinion) were a major factor of his greatness as he worked to both expand scholarship in the kingdom while also taking steps to basically turn the kingdom into a fortress.

  2. There is something that has been bothering me about Alfred’s story since the Chippenham episode; it smells fishy. Alfred didn’t seem to a very popular leader let alone one that could realize his reforms and his goal of being King of the English, but with what he accomplished after Chippenham he had the resume to get it done.

    It is easy to say that from the vantage point of history.

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