Friday, 17 January 2014

Have historians found Alfred the Great?

Archaeologists and historians believe they may have discovered the bones of Alfred the Great, the king who famously burnt the cakes - as well as helping to lay the foundations for the unification of the disparate kingdoms that made up England at the time as well as battling the ongoing Viking invasions.  Inspired by the confirmation in 2013 that a body discovered beneath a car park in Leicester is that of Richard III, royal history detectives decided to try and locate the remains of the only king in British history to have the title 'Great'.  And while their digging came up with nothing, tests on bones found fifteen years ago and tucked away in a box ever since proved more successful.  The remains are either those of Alfred or his son, Edward the Elder, they believed.

Alfred the Great, as imagined in the 1830s, is one of the most famous figures in British history

Alfred was known for his love of education and language so may well have been impressed by the intellectual rigour that has gone into identifying the bones as either his or his son's.  But even he might be pushed to come up with an answer as to how they make the final call.  Archaeologists need to find a living descendant to test DNA to confirm their theories and that is easier said than done as the king has been dead for over 1000 years and the Anglo Saxon manuscripts aren't the best source for finding royal relatives.  But the idea that another of Britain's most famous historic figures has been found, after all these years, brings an excitement and interest that gets even the most cynical hoping for an ending to a centuries' old tale.

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