The White Horse King – The Life Of Alfred The Great

23 Dec

Do you think history is dry and boring? Well think again! Benjamin Merkle’s book, The White Horse King, is full of hand-to-hand battles, intrigues and betrayals.  And at the center of the action is Alfred the Great, the 9th century king of Wessex (now the southern part of England).  This Anglo-Saxon king has been awarded the title the Great for the many accomplishments of his reign, not least of these, the successful repulsion of the marauding Vikings.  Merkle sets forth Alfred’s story in a very readable history; a history that reads more like an adventure novel.

Alfred’s story begins as the future king is brought up in the Wessex court. A love of learning is instilled early by his mother, his faith is established by his pilgrimage to Rome at the age of 4, and the love and honor of his kingdom is learned at the knee of his father.  The fifth son of the king, Alfred is the unlikely heir of the kingdom.  Yet he does inherit the throne and rules wisely for 25 years.

Alfred is well known for the innovative defenses he set up against the invading Vikings that plagued his reign.  He also established a navy, a unified legal code, a literacy program for all freemen in his country, and the reestablishment of the Christian church as the center of learning and Godly wisdom.  Modern England and its former colonies owe a great deal to the early wisdom and innovation of Alfred.

Merkle’s book grew out of his master’s dissertation and it is evident that  he has a great deal of respect and affection for his subject.  He traces out a very believable and readable biography of a great king that might be little known to modern readers.  I enjoyed this book very much.  It was a page turner that kept me interested through the end.

Highly recommended.

(I received this book from the publisher, Thomas Nelson, as part of their review program.  There was no monetary consideration given.)

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