First Richard, Now Alfred

Caution: if you're a British king of antiquity lying in an unmarked grave, your bones are likely to soon be disturbed.

For, buoyed by the success of the Richard III quest, a team of archaeologists are now applying for permission to excavate an unmarked grave in Winchester, reputedly the final resting place of King Alfred the Great.

According to The (paywalled) Times, Alfred's skeleton could be among a collection of bones purchased by a 19th-century vicar for ten shillings.

Alfred is the only British king referred to as 'The Great'. He made peace with the Danes, established a code of laws, reformed coinage and famously burnt a batch of cakes he was watching for a swineherd in whose home he was sheltering when he was on the lam. He was too preoccupied with kingly matters to turn the cakes.

Katie Tucker, an archaeologist from Winchester University, who will be leading the analysis told The Times:

“As far as we’re aware there are five skulls plus other bones. The most simple part will be to work out ages, sexes, and put the bones back together.”

The Time says that Alfred's bones were initially buried in 899AD beside Winchester Cathedral, but when Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries, the altar and everything around it was disturbed and the bones were lost. They were dug up later by a Victorian archeaologist who sold them to the church.