Magdeburg Cathedral bones confirmed as oldest English royal remains

Confirmation that bones found in a tomb in Magdeburg Cathedral, Germany, are of  a Saxon princess, the oldest English royal remains to be found.   The bones are part of the body of the Saxon princess Eadgyth, the granddaughter of King Alfred the Great, who died more than 1,000 years ago.

The tomb where they were found was first investigated in 2009, but it was then believed the bones had been moved.   Two years ago German archaeologists opened the tomb, expecting it to be empty, but found it contained a lead box with the inscription, “The remains of Queen Eadgyth are in this sarcophagus”.   The bones were inside, wrapped in silk.

The latest techniques have been used by experts from the University of Mainz and the University of Bristol to analyze the bones and some teeth found in the upper jaw.   It was discovered they belonged to a female who died aged between 30 and 40;  that the woman was a frequent horse rider and ate a high protein diet with large amounts of fish, which suggested she had enjoyed an aristocratic lifestyle.   This did not prove, however, that they were the bones of Queen Eadgyth.  What has been described as “some exceptional science” was needed to prove that.   By studying tiny samples of tooth enamel, researchers were able to establish that the woman must have spent the first 14 years of her life in the chalk regions of southern Britain, and that fitted in with historical records of Eadgyth’s early years in Wessex.   She must have moved around the kingdom following her father, King Edward the Elder, during his reign.   When her mother was divorced in AD 919, and she was about nine, both of them were banished to a monastery in Wessex.

Eadgyth’s half brother, Athelstan, the first king to rule all of England, gave her in marriage to King Otto I, the Holy Roman Emperor, in AD 929.   She lived most of her married life in Magdeburg, capital of Saxony-Anhalt, and had at least two children.   She died in AD 946 at the age of about 36, and was buried at the monastery of St Maurice in Switzerland, but her bones were moved serveral times, until eventually being placed in the richly carved tomb in Magdeburg Cathedral in 1510.

The princess will be laid to rest later this year when her bones are reburied in Magdeburg Cathedral – exactly 500 years after their last interment in 1510.

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  1. Reblogged this on Asatru / Heathen South Africa.


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