This surname of ALFRED was originally derived from the Old English personal name ALVRED, composed of the elements AELF (elf) and ROED (council). This name owed its popularity as a given name in England chiefly to the fame of Alfred the Great (849-899) who was the Anglo-Saxon King of Wessex born at Wantage in Berkshire the fifth and youngest son of King Aethelwuls. At the age of four he was taken to Rome to be confirmed by Pope Leo lV and soon afterwards visited the Frankish court of Charles lst, the Bald, with his father. He succeeded his brother Aethelred l as King in 87l when Viking invaders were occupying the northern east of England, and Wessex was under constant attack. Early in 878 the Danish Army burst into Wessex and drove Alfred into hiding in the marshes of Somerset. He recovered sufficiently to defeat the Danes decisively at the Battle of Edington in Wiltshire. He captured London in 886. He promoted education and learning, fostered all the arts and inspired the production of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. He died in October 899 and was buried in Winchester. The associated coat of arms is recorded in Sir Bernard Burkes General Armory. Ulster King of Arms in 1884. Many factors contributed to the establishment of a surname system. For generations after the Norman Conquest of 1066 a very few dynasts and magnates passed on hereditary surnames, but the main of the population, with a wide choice of first-names out of Celtic, Old English, Norman and Latin, avoided ambiguity without the need for a second name. As society became more stabilized, there was property to leave in wills, the towns and villages grew and the labels that had served to distinguish a handful of folk in a friendly village were not adequate for a teeming slum where perhaps most of the householders were engaged in the same monotonous trade, so not even their occupations could distinguish them, and some first names were gaining a tiresome popularity, especially Thomas after 1170. The hereditary principle in surnames gained currency first in the South, and the poorer folk were slower to apply it. By the 14th century however, most of the population had acquired a second name.
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