The bones of long-lost English King Alfred the Great may have been discovered in a graveyard in Winchester, the Daily Echo reports.
Alfred, the only English King to be known as “the Great,” was King of Wessex from 871 to 899 and was the first British Monarch to style himself as King of the entire of the Anglo-Saxons.
He had a big reputation, too. He was once described as the “the most perfect character in history” for his legal reforms and repelling Viking attacks.
The apparent discovery of Alfred comes less than two months after King Richard III’s bones were confirmed to have been found in a parking lot.
Like Richard, Alfred’s location has been a long-running mystery. He was initially buried beside Winchester Cathedral, but his remains were moved to Hyde Abbey after the expansion of the cathedral in 1110AD. When Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries, Alfred’s final resting place was lost.
According to Times of London: “Wessex royals found themselves beneath first derelict land, then a prison, then beside St Bartholomew’s Church, until, in the middle of the 19th century, a Victorian archaeologist began investigations around the altar of the old abbey.”
An unmarked grave at St Bartholomew’s in Hyde was exhumed on Monday, The Daily Echo reports. Remains were found and were taken to an unnamed location for further analysis.
While the church has given no formal permission for scientific investigation yet, its approval is now viewed as a formality.
It may be more complicated to identify Alfred’s remains than it was to identify Richard II. Investigators can either compare DNA to a living relative (which may prove difficult), or use carbon dating to see if the bones are from the 10th Century, when Alfred died, or the 12th Century when other monks would have been buried nearby.
The process to exhume the body was conducted in secret, probably to prevent gold diggers from stealing the bones, etc.
“I cannot go into detail. It was regarded to be a real threat. People were concerned about someone turning up with a pick axe and doing some DIY on the grave,” diocesan spokesman Nick Edmonds told the Daily Echo.
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