Vita Ælfredi regis (Angul Saxonum) ‘The Life of King Alfred (or The Life of Alfred, king of the Anglo-Saxons)’

  • Latin
  • prose
  • Anglo-Saxon texts, Cambro-Latin texts

A Latin biography of King Alfred written in 893 by Asser, a Welsh scholar at the king’s court who had previously been a monk of St David’s and later became bishop of Sherborne. Asser wrote at a time when Alfred had established an overlordship in Wales. The intended audience of the work has been subject to debate, some suggesting that Asser wrote for a Welsh audience.

(d. c.908/909)
monk of St David’s and later, bishop of Sherborne; author of a contemporary Life of King Alfred.

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One vellum manuscript known, now lost:

This copy was destroyed in the Ashburnham House fire of 23 October, 1731. It was originally found on ff. 1-55r and contained interpolations by Matthew Parker.
Transcripts and printed editions prior to loss include:
pp. 324c–364
c. 1550 x 1574. Transcript made for Matthew Parker, still free of his interpolations.
editio princeps by Matthew Parker, Ælfredi Regis Res Gestae (London, 1574), with interpolations
Reprinted by William Camden in Anglica, Normannica, Hibernica, Cambrica, a veteribus Scripta (Frankfurt, 1602), with his own interpolation concerning the foundation of Oxford University by King Alfred.
London, British Library, MS Cotton Otho A xii (pre-fire)
Later transcript, with some of Parker's interpolations incorporated.
Scholarly edition by Francis Wise, Annales Rerum Gestarum Ælfredi Magni, auctore Asserio Menevensi (Oxford, 1722), with a facsimile reproduction of the first page made by James Hill. Wise did not consult the manuscript first-hand.(1)n. 1 Michael Lapidge • Simon Keynes, Alfred the Great: Asser's Life of King Alfred and other contemporary sources (1983): 223–226.
  • Latin
  • Latin.


prose (primary)
Associated items
Proverbia GrecorumProverbia GrecorumAn early medieval Latin compilation of gnomic maxims attributed to the Greeks, perhaps dating to the 7th century. The earliest transmission of its material is closely associated with Insular, particularly Irish scholarship, as seen in works of Sedulius Scottus and the B-recension of the Collectio canonum Hibernensis.


Anglo-Saxon textsAnglo-Saxon texts

Cambro-Latin textsCambro-Latin texts


Alfred [king of Wessex]
Alfred ... king of Wessex
(d. 899)
No short description available

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Michael Lapidge • Simon Keynes, Alfred the Great: Asser's Life of King Alfred and other contemporary sources (1983): 223–226.

Primary sources Text editions and/or modern translations – in whole or in part – along with publications containing additions and corrections, if known. Diplomatic editions, facsimiles and digital image reproductions of the manuscripts are not always listed here but may be found in entries for the relevant manuscripts. For historical purposes, early editions, transcriptions and translations are not excluded, even if their reliability does not meet modern standards.

[ed.] [tr.] Stevenson, W. H. [ed. and tr.], Asser’s Life of King Alfred: together with the Annals of Saint Neots erroneously ascribed to Asser, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1904.
Internet Archive: <link>
[tr.] Keynes, Simon, and Michael Lapidge [trs.], Alfred the Great: Asser's Life of King Alfred and other contemporary sources, Penguin Classics, Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1983.
[ed.] Wise, Francis, Annales rerum gestarum Ælfredi Magni, auctore Asserio Menevensi, Oxford, 1722.
HathiTrust: <link>  : <link>
Incl, between pp. 136–137, a facsimile specimen of the original manuscript.
[ed.] Camden, William, Anglica, Normannica, Hibernica, Cambrica: a veteribus scripta: ex quibus Asser Meneuensis, anonymus De vita Gulielmi Conquestoris, Thomas Walsingham, Thomas de la More, Gulielmus Gemiticensis, Giraldus Cambrensis, Frankfurt: Claude de Marne & Jean Aubry, 1602.
SLUB Dresden: <link> Internet Archive: <link>, <link> Google Books: <link>
Reprint of Matthew Parker’s edition.
[ed.] Parker, Matthew [presumed], Ælfredi regis res gestae, London: [John Day], 1574.  
STC (2nd ed.) no. 863. First edition of Asser’s biography of King Alfred, interpolated with extracts from the Annals of St Neots, which Parker believed to have been written by Asser. The date of publication, 1574, is not indicated but has been established on the basis of a letter by Parker to William Cecil written in the same year (older references in the literature may have 1570).
Library of Congress: <link> Library of Congress: View in Mirador Internet Archive: <link> Parker on the Web – Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, 176, part A (parts B and C are bound together): View in Mirador  : <link>
Editio princeps, with interpolations from the Annals of St Neots.

Secondary sources (select)

Charles-Edwards, T. M., “The Britons and the English, 550–1064: 14. Two ninth-century writers”, in: T. M. Charles-Edwards, Wales and the Britons, 350–1064, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013. 437–466.
Howlett, David, Cambro-Latin compositions: their competence and craftsmanship, Dublin: Four Courts Press, 1998.
Dumville, David N., “The ‘six’ sons of Rhodri Mawr: a problem in Asser’s Life of King Alfred”, Cambridge Medieval Celtic Studies 4 (Winter, 1982): 5–18.  
Reprinted in 1993, essay XV.
C. A., Dennis Groenewegen
Page created
November 2010, last updated: January 2024