By Richard Abels
Writing Medieval Biography, 750-1250: Essays in Honour of Frank Barlow. eds. David Bates, Julia Crick, and Sarah Hamilton (Boydell and Brewer, 2006)
Introduction: Alfred’s rhetorical question from his translation of Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy was meant to point up the transitory nature of human glory and fame. That we are still studying Alfred eleven hundred years later perhaps denies this assumption, but, looked at from a different perspective, the question is quite relevant to the survival of material and textual evidence for early medieval people, even one as famous as Alfred. Finding the bones of King Alfred the Great was, appropriately, the goal of the Hyde Community Archaeology Project’s well publicised and fruitless excavation of the Abbey in 1999. As dearly as historians would like to have Alfred’s remains to learn some personal details about the man, Alfred’s bones are probably no more recoverable than Weland’s.