Someone sent me a newspaper cutting of this story:
The story about Anglo-Saxon ruler King Alfred burning his cakes is likely to be mere propaganda passed down through the generations, reported The Times, the Guardian Unlimited, Radio 3 and the Yorkshire Post. Professor Rory McTurk said his research shows that a Viking called Ragnar Hairybreeks might equally have been responsible for this ninth-century catering disaster.
King Alfred’s cakes reduced to crumbs: Guardian
‘War of spin’ over Alfred’s burnt cakes: Independent
The author of the medieval Life of King Alfred the Great (c 847-99) informs his readers that he is Asser, the friend and tutor of the king, who came from distant Wales to live in the king’s household, taught Alfred to read and benefitted from the king’s great generosity. He claims, furthermore, that the king is still alive while he writes, supposedly in 893.
There is a powerful intimacy about this source which conveys the impression that Alfred was in the next room while Asser wrote; and scholars who have accepted it at face value for centuries have ranked Asser’s Life as a cornerstone in Anglo-Saxon studies. The Life has been used not only as the authoritative source on Alfredian Wessex, but also to fill great gaps in our knowledge of all other Anglo-Saxon centuries.
But this source can now be shown to be a forgery – albeit an early forgery – with all the profound implications this has for our understanding of the Anglo-Saxon world.
*Anyone who has watched British commercial television over the past three decades will recognise its advertising slogan: ‘Mr Kipling makes exceedingly good cakes.’