London - It could be the age for discovering long-lost monarchs.
After archaeologists found the remains of Richard III under a Leicester car park last year, another team believe they may have stumbled upon Alfred the Great.
Amid great secrecy, they exhumed an unmarked grave at a more fitting location for a royal burial than a car park – a churchyard in Winchester named in ancient documents as Alfred’s burial place.
After a delicate ten-hour operation, human skeletal remains were unearthed in the churchyard of St Bartholomew’s in the Hyde area of the city, and taken for storage at an undisclosed location.
Discovering Alfred, the Anglo-Saxon king who fought off the Vikings and established the foundations of our law codes and justice system – as well as, legend has it, being scolded by a peasant woman for carelessly burning her cakes – would be hugely important.
Historians agree that the king, who died in 899 after a 28-year reign, had a great impact on Britain today, safeguarding the English language and Christian religion.
But archaeologists admit that discovering him would be a long shot as, unlike Richard III who remained at the same burial site for more than 500 years, Alfred’s bones were moved at least twice, the second time to Hyde Abbey.
Earlier this year Katie Tucker, an archaeologist from the University of Winchester leading the search, admitted it would be difficult to prove any remains are his – but hoped her team could prove the age of the bones.
She said: “If the bones are from around the 10th century then that is proof they are Alfred and his family, because Hyde Abbey was not built until the 12th century, and there is no reason for any other bones from the 10th century to be there.”
It is not known how Alfred died, but he was buried in the Old Minster, the Anglo-Saxon cathedral in Winchester. When Alfred’s son King Edward the Elder built the New Minster two years later – possibly to house his father’s body – the remains were moved there.
Old chronicles reveal that in 1110, the monks at New Minster moved and took the bones with them again to Hyde Abbey, a little north of the city, along with the remains of Alfred’s wife and children.
The abbey was demolished when Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries in 1539 although most of the graves were left intact.
Permission to dig at the churchyard was granted by the Diocese of Winchester, following recent publicity about Alfred, to prevent unauthorised people trying to find his remains. - Daily Mail