Alfred the Great (849-899). Sir W. Hamo Thornycroft, R. A. (1850-1925). 1901. Bronze, on rough-hewn grey Cornish granite. Winchester. [Click on images to enlarge them.]

In September 1901, Winchester, the ancient capital of Wessex, was the focus of celebrations marking the Millenary of King Alfred's death. The high point of the festivities was the unveiling of this huge monument, prominently located in front of the site of the city's old East Gate. Reporting the unveiling, the New York Times described the work as "one of the largest single figures in bronze ever produced in the United Kingdom. From the base to the tip of the upraised arm measures seventeen feet. The sheathed sword is detachable, and somewhat increases the height. All the rest of the statue is in one casting. The statue is placed on a pedestal consisting of two immense blocks of gray Cornish granite, each block weighing no less than four to six tons."

The public to whom Alfred was a national icon — his status as "the founder of the kingdom and nation" is recorded on a plaque on the base — approved. The Times correspondent , for instance, was full of praise for this "Alfred breathing life and radiating energy" (qtd. in Parker 13). The way he held his sword, "effectively recalling the religious principles that had underpinned [his] wars," was especially admired (Parker 13). Some commentators pointed out that the king appears beardless on ninth-century coins, as well as on the famous Alfred Jewel.

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Parker, Joanne. England's Darling: The Victorian Cult of Alfred the Great. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2007.

"Statue of King Alfred Unveiled; Climax of the Millenary Celebration at Winchester." New York Times, 20 September 1901, p.3.

Created 20 August 2009

Last modified 24 February 2020