Monday, December 7, 2009

The White Horse King

The White Horse King by Benjamin Merkle

The White Horse King is a compelling and interesting book about the only English monarch ever to be titled great: King Alfred the Great. Alfred was a great leader and a wise and learned man. Under his leadership the English people would band together to fight and defeat the Viking raiders who were constantly attacking the island of Great Britain.
Alfred was born in the mid-ninth century in Wantage, Wessex, England. His father was the king of Wessex. Alfred was by no means the heir to his father's throne, having several older, battle-hardened brothers. However all those in line ahead of him died untimely deaths, either in battle or due to illness, so that Alfred was left on the throne.
Alfred became a great scholar before he took the throne, and during his reign, England experienced a revival of learning, particularly Christian learning. Alfred expected those in leadership in his kingdom to learn to read and write at least their own language. He codified a system of laws that ended some of the feuding and revenge killings that had been epidemic in his kingdom. Alfred's reign also signaled a revival of Christian worship.
Alfred was also a very pious and godly leader, even going to the point of sponsoring in baptism one of his chief Viking opponents, Guthrum. However his piety by no means meant he was a weak opponent to face in battle. He stood steadfastly against those Viking raiders who would invade the island of Great Britain and pillage ruthlessly, leaving destruction in their wake. In so doing he caused them to go back to their homelands and raid somewhere else.
Alfred was the first king to unite all the Anglo-Saxons into one kingdom. His grandson would become the first to rule over the entire island of Britain. Merkle writes, "England, and the many nations descended from her, still have Alfred to thank for a substantial portion of the heritage and freedoms that they enjoy today. The title 'Alfred the Great,' so strangely offensive to the modern ear, was well deserved by the Anglo-Saxon warrior-king. Of course these words of unreserved praise are all in need of much qualification. Alfred was, after all, a mere mortal and certainly had his fair share of foibles. Nevertheless, he was a fierce warrior, a devout Christian ever thirsting for wisdom, deeply committed to justice, a lover of mercy, and a king who gave himself for his people. He was practically a myth and a much-needed reality. He was the king of the Whitehorse--Alfred the Great."
Disclosure of materials connection: In return for this review, I was given a copy of the book by the publisher.

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