‘England’s darling’

The Victorian cult of Alfred the Great
Author(s): 
Parker, Joanne
ISBN: 
9780719073571
Date published: 
May 2014
Paperback
Price: 
£16.99

For much of the nineteenth century, King Alfred was as important as King Arthur in the British popular imagination. A pervasive cult of the King developed which included the erection of at least four public statues, the completion of more than twenty-five paintings, and the publication of over a hundred texts, by authors ranging from Wordsworth to minor women writers. By 1852, J.A. Froude could describe Alfred’s life as ‘the favourite story in English nurseries’; in 1901, a national holiday marked the thousandth anniversary of his death, organised by a committee including Edward Burne Jones, Arthur Conan Doyle and Thomas Hughes. The book examines the ways in which Alfred was rewritten by nineteenth-century authors and artists, and asks how beliefs about the Saxon king’s reign and achievements related to nineteenth-century ideals about leadership, law, religion, commerce, education and the Empire. The book concludes by addressing the most interesting enigma in Alfred’s reception history: why is the king no longer ‘England’s darling’? A fascinating study that will be enjoyed by scholars of history, cultural history, literature and art history.