Thursday 21 January 2010

Ferthu hal, Eadgyth

Princess Eadgyth-or Edith-of Wessex, daughter of Edward the Elder, granddaughter of Alfred the Great, and half-sister of Athelstan, the first king of all England, has come home after a thousand years, or at least part of her has. Fragments of her body arrived this week at Bristol University, where tests are expected to confirm that the woman found in a lead coffin inside a stone sarcophagus at Magdeburg Cathedral in Germany is the princess who left this country more than a millennium ago to marry Otto the Great, the first Holy Roman Emperor.

The existing monument at Magdeburg was built centuries after her death in 946 and was believed to be empty. However, when the sarcophagus was opened in 2008 it was found to contain a beautifully preserved coffin with an inscription saying that she had been reburied in 1510. Instead of bits and pieces, the usual fate of remains after this remove of time, the coffin contained the body of a woman of the right age. Professor Mark Horton has said that the tests on the enamel from her teeth, and on bone fragments, will reveal if she was brought up in Wessex and Mercia.

This for me is such exciting news. We owe so much to the House of Wessex; we owe our language and our law to Alfred and his successors; we owe them England itself. But sadly the Saxon kings of old have left little trace, buried under time and circumstances. Athelstan has a tomb at Malmesbury Abbey in Wiltshire, but it’s thought to be empty. There were excavations in pursuit of Alfred at Winchester but nothing was ever found.

But now we have Eadygth, a link with the past, a link with one of the greatest phases in our national story. Health to your spirit, dear lady.


  1. Crumbs, Ana. Something nice about someone from 'istory! You'll have your name taken for this ... ;-)

  2. I say lots of nice things about dead people.:-)

  3. There is, of course, the saxon eorl and his wife who were exhumed in the 12th century in Glastonbury and declared to be Arthur and Guenevere, which, if nothing else, shows how much the Brythonic history of the island has become part of the story of the English as much as the Welsh. From 'Hic Iacet Arthurus Rex ... ' to Malory's 'King Arthur is nat dead' is a journey from denial to acceptance. Our island story.

  4. Hi Ana - nice post. I am very interested in Saxon history particularly here in Kent. Like you say little remains today from that period which is a shame. Most of the churches in Kent were originally Saxon but got rebuilt after the Norman Conquest (damn Frenchies! :-))


  5. Top notch blog! But would we expect anything less from Ana?
    I'm banned from MyT (unless prepared to grovel and promise to be a good boy in future).
    The mods say they don't like my style. I blame the schools myself - so have set up a new site called "A Rough Ride on MyT" !
    Don't get mad - get even!

  6. Yes it has indeed, Heron- we grafted your myths and traditions on to our body!

    Oh, well, Glen, never mind- early Norman is also very nice. :-)

    Thanks, Colin. My, what did you do? I always thought that you were among the more reasonable in that madhouse. :-))

  7. The mods say they object to my style of posting, Ana, which they say infringes the Terms and Conditions, but when I ask which one in particular they go all coy, and tell me to read them again - which I've done several times.

    There's now little doubt in my mind that moderation is progressively becoming censorship. I could speculate on what it is they dislike, but what would be the point?

    The Times went the same way with its revamp some three years ago - imposing a house style that might best be describes as bland. The Telegraph's main site too has been repeatedly criticized in recent months for failing to publish submissions, with various suggestions about no-no allusions - like what to do with Gordon Brown, the Barclay Brothers etc etc - but again, all speculation.

    My new blog address, btw, is:


    I'm an hour ahead of you here in Gib, so must now close up for the night.

    Keep up the good work.

  8. Thanks, Colin. The whole thing is so arbitrary; I’m not at all sure what is going on. I had a post on a new Van Gogh exhibition - also available here – removed recently for no reason that I could understand, other than it might have infringed some rule about ‘advertising.’ However, I never bother questioning these things now. As I’ve said before it’s like being a citizen of a community governed by the occupants of Kafka’s Castle. :-))

    Thanks for the link. I'll be sure to come along.

  9. Apols for the blocking semi-colon in that link, Ana.

    It should be:

    You might like seeing where you are in my personal hit parade (the earlier of yesterday's two posts).

  10. Oops. Thanks for pointing out the second typo Ana:

    for the wooden spoon and perhaps some history re MyT:


    for the serious science (yawn...)

    I responded to the message you left there last night. Sheona thinks she knows which school you went to... ;-)

  11. No secret, really; there's a piccie here. :-)