UK & World News
Alfred The Great: Quest To Find King's Bones
After the discovery of Richard III's remains, archaeologists trying to find Alfred the Great have applied to exhume and study bones in an unmarked grave that may be those of the Saxon king.
The application to dig at St Bartholomew Church in Winchester, Hampshire, comes after a possible earlier burial of him under the nearby ruined Hyde Abbey was dug up in the 19th century.
Dr Katie Tucker from the University of Winchester said it was not known if the bones of the king were disturbed when Hyde Abbey was dissolved by Henry VIII in the 1530s.
Since then there have been several digs at the site, all suggesting they have found the bones, with some on display in Winchester in the 19th century before they were buried in the unmarked grave at the church.
German scientists have analysed the skeleton of Alfred's granddaughter in Magdeburg, Germany to try to get DNA but that has proved unsuccessful, Dr Tucker said, so experts will rely on radio carbon dating to get proof.
"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 they would be no reason for any other bones from the 10th century to be there," she said.
"This is a long shot because unlike with Richard III there is no complete skeleton. We only know they are five skulls and some bones and we also don't know if the bones are monks from the abbey."
The University of Winchester is seeking permission from a diocesan advisory panel of the Church of England which will consult English Heritage and a judge will make a final decision.
The university is hoping that permission will be granted this spring and results could be due in the early summer.
Alfred lived from 849 AD to 899 AD and was born in Wantage, Oxfordshire. He is the only English monarch to be afforded the title The Great.
He was technically King of Wessex but he was referred to as King of the English towards the end of his reign.
He united areas of the country and defeated the Danes in several battles before reforming the country and laying the foundations of a more modern state. He died in his capital Winchester and was buried there.
Legend has it he burnt cakes he was asked to watch over while distracted trying to think how to defeat the invaders and he had to sleep with his horse as a punishment.