The White Horse King

The White Horse King – The Life of Alfred The Great is a historical biography written like a novel. If you are into Arthurian period comparisons, check it out.

Alfred, the Great was not an inspiring figure for King Arthur’s Chronicles. This ruler is the son of Aethewulf and grandson of King Ecbert. None less than the literary icon, Alfred lived the period of English unification and gave birth to modern England.



The Book

This is a biography about King Alfred of Wessex written by Benjamin Merkle in 2009.

The book tells us the story of Alfred, fifth son of King Aethelwulf from Wessex, not likely to end up being the heir to the throne.
The ruler gradually loses his mother and brothers. This leads to the thrones of Wessex and, later, the Anglos-Saxons.
We see his learning experience with the Dane Vikings invasion on Britain.
Alfred developed many cultural and practical issues. Topics like military tactics, planning of roads, economy, spreading Christianity, are important to him. He spread them over his nation and even among his enemies.
He was also paramount on the revival of literacy, education, and law codes.
The improbable king who saved England.
Vikings, by sea, from the cold North, docked on our shores and swept down into English land.
The Norsemen attacked ruthlessly with no fear of anything in their route. They did not exclude anybody from their rage and pillage.
An unlikely champion came to the rescue at the worst moment.
King Alfred took a long time to expel the Vikings from Britain, after many years of persistent battles and strategic plots.

Alfred brought progress to Britain. Today, we can still note the legacy of his work. Law, religion, and infrastructure opened the roads for a great empire of the future
Merkle rallies our imagination with emotion to tell history in a mythic and epic way.



The Author

Benjamin R. Merkle is a minister, an educator, a theologist and a master in language and Jewish studies and D. Philo. In Oriental Studies.
He is the author of many scholar studies. Merkle also wrote the books The White Horse King: The Life of Alfred the Great and Defending the Trinity in the Reformed Palatinate.



Ben Merkle had all the opportunity and environment to write a really boring book. But then again, he didn’t. The author composed a fantastic work of historical adventure that looks more like a novel than a biography.

He transformed an excellent historical research into an enjoyable work of literature.
The White Horse King is an inspirational book. We learn a lot about loyalty, betrayal, wisdom and the chaos of war battle.
The author, here, advocates for the British king. He states that Alfred is one of the most outstanding leaders in fabled and factual, middle-ages Britain. A man that ruled with wisdom and protected his people from Danish pillaging.
Unlike politicians today, this king is as a visionary poet-warrior with an ideal of a nation and country protecting his subjects.
Biographies were never my thing, and I had never learned proper ancient British history. Needless to say, I wasn’t expecting much from this book that, in fact, is an excellent reading and learning opportunity.
Thomas Nelson published the book in 2009. They sent a copy for an uncompromised review through the Thomas Nelson Book Review Bloggers Program.


  • cultural relevance
  • entertainment
  • readability
  • Our personal rating


A historical book written like a novel about one of the most heroic kings of English history.

User Review
4 (1 vote)

This book will be better appreciated with some historical guidance.

Feel free to leave a comment with your opinion.


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4 thoughts on “The White Horse King

  • 2016-06-21 at 8:20 pm

    I have always been fascinated by ancient history. Not only for England, my place of birth if not residence, but of many countries.

    In school I found the way history was presented was extremely boring – to be polite. That was until the last two years of high school when one of our teachers was an archaeologist. She had been to many sites of ancient activities and was able to bring life into history. (By the way she actually taught English!)

    I do reviews on science fiction and fantasy and I find by far and away the best tales are those where history has been closely examined and incorporated in the world of imagination.

    I have read of Alfred before but will certainly check out this book to. I wonder if the white horses carved into the hills of Britain came from him or his sobriquet came from them.

    • 2016-06-25 at 10:01 am

      Hello, Hellen,

      Thanks for sharing your experiences.

      Learning history from an Archaeologist! Man, how cool is that!?

      I didn’t have the same luck as you but followed a similar path. When I went to prep school (for college) my boring literature/history learning got twisted around by 3 fantastic teachers. I learned more during that one year than I had ever learned the 11 years before that.

      I’m always thankful for that fortune! I think that is the reason why I enjoy historic books, movies and series so much.


  • 2016-06-21 at 8:29 pm

    I am totally into the Arthurian period myths, writings, novels, movies and even games. It is surprising that Alfred, the fifth son will end up being the heir to the throne seeing how in those days that right was given to the first born son.
    I look forward to reading this book especially as it sheds more light on the history of Britain. These Norsemen you mentioned, do they have any relationship to the Normans?

    • 2016-06-23 at 4:51 pm

      Hello, Denise,

      Thank you for sharing. I’ve always been quite intrigued by the period, myself. In fact, by the British Royalty! I once spent about a week, or so, researching the Royal Family heritage from Queen Elizabeth II back to the first king I could find, using an old Microsoft Encyclopedia called Encarta! Remember that? No Wikipedia at the time. haha. Believe it or not, I got to King Ecbert, Alfred’s grandfather, I believe.

      Another curiosity: if you watch the TV series called “Vikings”, you will see both King Ecbert and his son, Aethelwoulf. Second and Third seasons, I think.

      I believe King Ecbert is the first king to think of a one-country Britain, so probably he is the real deal of a King Arthur, who probably is a mix of many legends and stories. Be advised though. I’m no historian. This association could be all wrong. haha.

      The Norsemen mentioned probably have total relationship with the Normans. Normandy was a “county”, so to say, that was created by a gathering of Vikings that did not go back home after raiding over Paris, I think in the late 800’s or maybe early 900’s. The leader, Rollo, married the princess of Paris as a political arrangement to bring peace proposed by the King in Paris. I can’t remember his name at the moment, sorry.



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