A pelvis bone exhumed in an excavation at Hyde Abbey in Winchester may belong to King Afred the Great, or his son Edward the Elder says experts.
The pelvis, dated to 895-1017, matches the time period in which Afred died. He was King of Wessex from 849 – 26 October 899.
“These are the bones that were found closest to the site of the high altar. As far as we know, from the chronicles and the records, the only individuals close to the site of the high altar who are the right age when they died and the right date when they died would either be Alfred or Edward.”
“The simplest explanation, given there was no Anglo-Saxon cemetery at Hyde Abbey, is that this bone comes from one of the members of the West Saxon royal family brought to the site.” said Dr Katie Tucker.
Alfred successfully defended his kingdom against the Viking attempt at conquest, and by the time of his death Alfred had become the dominant ruler in England. He is the only English monarch to be accorded the epithet “the Great”.
Alfred was the first King of the West Saxons to style himself “King of the Anglo-Saxons”. Details of his life are described in a work by the 10th century Welsh scholar and bishop Asser. Alfred’s reputation has been that of a learned and merciful man who encouraged education and improved his kingdom’s legal system and military structure.
The pelvis, held in storage at Winchester’s City Museum was tested by specialists from Winchester University. They’ve announced that it came from a man aged between 26-45+ at the time of death. Since the discovery of Richard III by Leicester University, there’s been public interest in the search for lost monarchs.
However, unlike the Richard III case there are no known family descendants for a DNA match. Attempts were made to take samples from the granddaughter of Alfred the Great in Germany, however poor levels of preservation made this impossible.
Dr Katie Tucker said “This is a path that may be worth pursuing but it’s a very long way to go back, an extra 500 years to go back than Richard III, it’s always going to be more of a difficult task to find a descendant.”
Further research and investigations are now planned to determine whether the discovery does indeed prove to be the monarch. Winchester University and local groups are now calling for further future excavations of the Hyde Abbey site to determine whether any further remains can be identified.