When the BBC conducted the Greatest Briton poll in 2002, Alfred the Great was the only king to make it into the top 20. One can be sure that the story of the cakes left to burn in a Somerset hovel by a disguised monarch on the run was much of what the voters knew about him. This brilliant book offers a memorable portrait of a great ruler and the myths that grew around him. A little over a century ago, the only English king to be called 'the Great' could attract crowds of thousands to commemorate him. Now, even the most famous (and famously false) story about him, the burning of the cakes, is probably just a memory of 1066 and All That. This book shows how the Alfred of myth and the Alfred of history have become inextricably linked. For a long time, the legend of the burnt cakes was one of dozens of stories that were associated with the King and his time, from disguising himself as a minstrel to introducing the jury system. Alfred's historical achievements - saving his kingdom from invasion, attempting both to expand and educate his realm ?- and the way his story was told from the beginning, combined to make him the founding mythic figure of England. In stripping away the myths, historians have left an Alfred whose place in the popular imagination has all but vanished. This book attempts to recover a popular Alfred, understanding how he came to be 'Great', and how much myth had to do with that. A launch title in the new Profiles in History series, edited by Mary Beard. This series explores classic moments of world history- those 'ring-a-bell' events that we always know less about than we think!