Education Rocking the history boat to show King Alfred wasn’t so great

Rocking the history boat to show King Alfred wasn’t so great

New research has pushed out the boat to bust a myth about the origins of Britain’s Royal Navy.

The British have long been taught that ninth century monarch King Alfred the Great founded the first royal naval fleet.

But new evidence uncovered by historians at Flinders University has shown that King Alfred wasn’t so great after all.

Medieval Studies PhD candidate Matt Firth has found evidence that the first recorded Anglo-Saxon naval victory happened 20 years before Alfred was crowned King, and 24 years before his first known victory at sea.

“The idea that Alfred founded the navy is widespread – and the claim has been uncritically reproduced by such reputable authorities as the National Museum of the Royal Navy, Encyclopaedia Britannica and BBC’s history webpage,” Mr Firth said.

Using a combination of tenth-century historical texts and archaeological evidence for medieval ship design, the new research shows that Alfred was not the first English monarch to coordinate a fleet to defend the country against Viking attack.

To add insult to injury, Mr Firth has also found little evidence of continuity between the medieval fleets and the emergence of a Royal Navy.

“Suggestions of vast patrol fleets maintained by his successors are both logistically and technologically impossible,” Mr Firth said.

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