Five Missing Kings And Queens And Where We Might Find Them

As 2016 starts, the current public interest in hunting for royal burials shows no indication of abating. Hardly has actually the dust begun to choose Richard IIIs pricey brand-new tomb in Leicester than work is beginning on finding the resting place of another middle ages emperor, Henry I (d. 1135), in Reading (like Richard III, Henry is also thought to be under a car park).

Meanwhile, the Church of England is stoutly refusing to permit DNA tests to be brought out on bones believed to be those of the princes in the Tower who vanished in 1483, and who might be buried in Westminster Abbey.

With the honourable exception of Alfred the Great (d. 899), whose bones were disappointingly for some probably not found in recent Winchester excavations, this interest has actually had the tendency to focus on the kings of England after 1066 at the expenditure of earlier kings, kings of British kingdoms other than England and queens. That is probably typical of the wider public consciousness of and interest in the Middle Ages, but its not precisely representative of the period. So here are five amazing royal burials that present puzzles deserving of interest and that may help include simply a bit of diversity, too.

1. Oswald of Northumbria (d. 642)

Oswald was an aggressive leader of the northern kingdom of Northumbria, but embraced Christianity with all the zeal of the transform that he was. He so impressed the Irish missionary Aidan by his acts of charity that the latter seized his arm and exclaimed: May this hand never ever perish! Sure enough, it didnt, continuing to be uncorrupted after Oswalds death (or so the story goes).

The St Oswald antique. Brudersohn/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA

However it wasnt simply Oswalds hand that had an amazing fate. Oswald was killed on the battleground by pagan Mercians and the Welsh, and his head and limbs put on stakes. Some of these remains were later on taken to the abbey of Bardney in Lincolnshire. When this fell under Viking rule in the tenth century, the West Saxon royal household mounted a raid to steal the royal continues to be and bring them back to English-controlled land. What occurred next isn’t completely clear, but for the contemporary bone hunter the problem isn’t really a lack of evidence its too much of it. In the Middle Ages, 5 different establishments declared to own Oswalds head, from Durham in England through to Hildesheim in Germany, whose stunning head reliquary survives to this day.

2. Eadgyth (d. 946)

Until Oswalds bones are situated, the oldest determined remains of any English or British royalty are those of a lady, Eadgyth, child of King Edward the Senior citizen. And theyre not even in England. Eadgyths brother King Aethelstan sent her and her sister Eadgifu to Germany to enable Duke Otto of Saxony to take his pick of the 2 for marriage. Otto selected Eadgyth, and when he ended up being emperor, she was anointed as his queen. She stayed in Germany until her death in 946.

Eadgyth and her hubby Otto I, Magdeburg Cathedral. Chris 73/Wikimedia, CC BY

In 2008 her burial place in Magdeburg in Germany was opened and, although carbon dating failed, isotopic tests confirmed that the remains were certainly Eadgyths. But whats confusing is that not all Eadgyth was actually in the lead casket: her hands and feet were nowhere to be found and the majority of the skull was missing out on. Exactly what occurred to these? Experts at the time of the exhumation suggested that thieves had struck looking for holy antiques however Eadgyth wasnt generally considered a saint, so the secret stays.

3. Harold II (d. 1066)

Bayeux tapestry: the death of Harold. Lucien Musset’s The Bayeux Tapestry

Everyone understands exactly what took place to King Harold on the battlefield of Hastings in 1066 however what took place later on? Confusion set in early. A modern text, The Tune of the Battle of Hastings, says that he was buried on a cliff top; a later source claims he endured the fight and lived for several years as a hermit; but other texts and most historians suggest he was buried in Waltham Abbey, which he had endowed.

Naturally, there is now much talk of discovering his burial place. But even if the tomb could be discovered, could we make sure that it was really Harold inside it? According to the 12th-century Waltham chronicle, Harolds face was injured beyond recognition by battlefield wounds and the fallen king was identified for burial only by mysterious secret marks on his body known to his concubine, Edith Swanneck. Can we be quite sure that Edith could not have been misinterpreted?

4. Margaret (d. 1093)

Margaret was another victim of the Norman conquest, however one whose life took a happier turn than Harolds. Descended from King Alfred the Great, she was brought up in exile in Hungary prior to weding the Scottish king Malcom III. She was dealt with as a saint not long after her death and her chapel can still be seen in Edinburgh castle. A gospel book she owned likewise endures in London.

Shrine of St Margaret, Dunfermline Abbey. Kim Traynor/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA

But what stays of Margaret herself is in other places. She was buried in Dunfermline Abbey on her death, however later on her head was removed and required to Edinburgh as a relic and in the confusion of the Reformation it wound up in France, where it was lost in the revolution. Other parts of Margarets body were transferred to Spain by Philip II. When Queen Victoria spent for the restoration of Margarets tomb in Dumferline, it was probably for that reason the remediation of a cenotaph.

However, in 1862, a Scottish Catholic bishop travelled to Spain to request the return of some of Margarets remains. He properly secured a relic, which he brought with him back to Edinburgh where it remained for a century. In 2008, this relic obviously part of Margarets shoulder was ceremonially restored to St Margarets church in Dunfermline.

5. Llwelyn ap Gruffydd (d. 1282)

Llwelyn was the last leader of an independent Wales and satisfied his fate withstanding English imperialism in the shape of Edward I. Barely had he been killed than his head was cut off and sent out to London (though this was less grisly than the treatment portioned to Llwelyns previous ally, the rebel baron Simon de Montfort, whose testicles were curtained over his decapitated head). Llwelyns head was stuck on a pike at the Tower of London, where it stayed for more than a years to impress observers.

Cwmhir Abbey. Eirian Evans/geograph., CC BY-SA

What occurred to the rest of Llwelyn isn’t really particular. He was probably buried at Cwmhir Abbey in central Wales. But the archbishop of Canterbury at the time wasnt completely sure of this as well as composed a letter to look for confirmation. The abbey is now in ruins, but no historical excavations have taken place to certify the last resting location of (the majority of) the last independent Welsh ruler.

Charles West, Senior Lecturer in Middle ages History, University of Sheffield


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