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New call to identify ‘Harold’s remains’
6:30pm Friday 8th February 2013 in News
A medieval tomb that could contain the remains of one of England’s most legendary kings should be reopened, experts have said.
Some historians believe Harold II was buried under Holy Trinity Church in Bosham after his death at the Battle of Hastings in 1066.
The Saxon ruler, who grew up in Bosham and said prayers at the church, died with an arrow though his eye according to popular belief.
But many experts believe he was instead struck down and dismembered by Norman knights armed with swords.
An unmarked grave was first uncovered at the church in 1954 when stonemasons carried out repair work on the floor.
Inside they found an ancient coffin containing a mysterious headless skeleton.
Local historian Philip MacDougall said there was “strong enough” evidence to justify exhuming the bones for scientific examination.
He said: “This area was Harold’s powerhouse. He lived here and he had his navy here. There is certainly a link so they should be prepared to exhume the body.
“Although proving a DNA link would be difficult, it would certainly be possible to find enough circumstantial evidence to build a convincing case.
“There would very likely be evidence of a violent death, for instance.”
Another prominent supporter of the Bosham theory is author Helen Hollick, who co-wrote 1066, an upcoming feature film about the famous battle starring Pirates of the Caribbean actor Lee Arenberg.
She believes King Harold’s mutilated body was probably cut into a number of parts with the torso buried at Bosham and the head and heart taken to Waltham Abbey in Essex.
Buried alongside the partial skeleton found under the Bosham church were the remains of a small child.
Some say the mystery youngster is King Canute’s daughter, who is believed to have drowned in a nearby mill stream in the 11th century.
In 2004 the Diocese of Chichester refused to allow a group of amateur historians backed by a TV company to dig up the church floor saying there was too little evidence to back up their claims.
Yesterday (February 7) , Roger Combes, the Archdeacon of Horsham, said: “We are aware that there is renewed interest into two grave sites in the nave, at Bosham church.
“We await with interest to see if a stronger case can be made for a new application for a faculty which will be needed if any new claims are to be investigated.”
Ethelwulf, the King of Wessex
Steyning has a royal mystery all of its own.
Alfred the Great’s father, Ethelwulf, the King of Wessex, was buried in the picturesque town in 858.
Having conquered Kent to add to his family’s kingdom in the south west, he used Steyning and nearby Bramber as a base.
But when his son, Alfred the Great, named Winchester as his capital, he transported his father’s remains to the city’s cathedral.
But not everything was taken west. A solitary headstone sitting in the porch of Steyning’s St Andrew’s Church is said to be that of the great king.
Attached to the wall by six rusty brackets, it lacks the grandeur that one might expect.
Chris Tod, curator of the Steyning Museum, said: “Tests have been done on the stone and experts say that it is probably from the 10th or 11th century – Ethelwulf died in the ninth.
“On the other hand, the stone is said to have come from the Midhurst area so would have been very expensive to get over here.
“It is the kind of stone associated with somebody of high status.
“It is certainly from an ancient grave of someone notable. It’s just whether it is Ethelwulf’s.”
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