Call to exhume supposed grave of Harold II

Further evidence must be presented that an unmarked grave at Holy Trinity Church in Bosham is the resting place of King Harold II before the body may be exhumed, the Diocese of Chichester reports.

The last Saxon King of England, Harold was killed at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 and is believed to have been buried at his home church in Bosham.  In 1954 unearthed a stone sarcophagus which contained the skeleton of a headless man.

In 2003 the Consistory Court of the Diocese of Chichester denied a faculty to exhume the body. Chancellor Mark Hill said he was “far from satisfied” a case had been made that the remains were those of King Harold.

“It is a matter of conjecture whether any human remains will be found in the coffin; such remains as may be found are highly unlikely to be those of Harold since the vast preponderance of academic opinion points to him having been buried at Waltham Abbey; any DNA testing is futile [because of the improbability of finding proven present-day descendents whose own DNA could be compared]; and the margin of error in carbon dating testing can, at best, only produce an inconclusive result.”

“The prospect of obtaining a meaningful result is so remote in this instance that the presumption against disturbance is not displaced. The evidence led by the petitioners fails to come near to the standard required … the petition therefore fails,” Chancellor Hill ruled.

The Rev. Martin Lane, vicar of Holy Trinity said he was not surprised the debate over Harold’s grave has resurfaced.  “It remains a fascinating story and it is no wonder that people are captivated by the legend of Canute’s daughter’s grave and the Harold manor. However, these things have to be looked at properly and any new proposal would need to form part of our ongoing review of our church building and how it meets mission today.”

The Ven. Roger Combes,  Archdeacon of Horsham added that the diocese was “aware that there is renewed interest into two grave sites in the nave, at Bosham church.  We await with interest to see if a stronger case can be made for a new application for a faculty which will be needed if any new claims are to be investigated.”