, the youngest son of Æthelwolf king of the West Saxons, was born
, the youngest son of Æthelwolf king of the West Saxons, was born in the year 849, at Wannating, or Wanading, which is supposed to be Wantage in Berkshire. Æthelwolf, having a great regard for religion, and being extremely devoted to the see of Rome, sent Alfred to that city at five years of age; where pope Leo IV. adopted and anointed him, as some think, with a regal unction, though others are of opinion he was only confirmed. Soon after his return, his father, being in the decline of life, and going to visit the holy see, took his favourite son with him; where he had an opportunity of seeing and hearing many things, which made snch strong impressions on him, as remained during his whole life, Æthelwolf had five sons, and a daughter; of whom Æthelstan, the eldest, was king of Kent in his father’s life-time, and died before him. Æthelbald, the second son, raised a rebellion against his father, when he returned from Rome; who, to avoid any effusion of blood, consented to divide his dominions with him. Æthelwolf did not long survive this; but, before his death, he, by a full and distinct testamerit, endeavoured to settle all the claims of his children. By this will Æthelbalcl and Æthelbert had his kingdoms divided betwixt them; and he left his private estate, with all the money in his coffers, to his younger sons Æthelred and Alfred. Æthelwolf died in the year 858, and was succeeded by Æthelbald, who reigned but two years and a half. On his demise JLthelbert seized the crown, which he held for five years, and died in the year 866. He was succeeded by his brother Æthelred; who, while he was a private man, had solemnly promised Alfred to do him that justice which had been denied by the two former kings, by giving him what his father had bequeathed him. On his accession Alfred demanded a performance of his promise; but the king excused himself on account of the troublesome times, and assured him that at his death he would leave him all. Alfred having given proofs of his courage in the former king’s reign, Æthelred would never part with him, but employed him as his first minister and general of his armies.