‘We believe Harold is buried here – and we want to dig him up’

Father and son ''Michael Willhelm and Alan Williams, members of The English Liberty Foundation, during the declaration at the church. Their white dragon flag is flying in the background. ''Picture: Nikki Cutler
Father and son ''Michael Willhelm and Alan Williams, members of The English Liberty Foundation, during the declaration at the church. Their white dragon flag is flying in the background. ''Picture: Nikki Cutler
From left, Jacob Kennard, Gavin Moon, Ian Doyle and Sarah Talboys-Smith with Shanon Rees and Rodney Watson at the front
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TO MANY historians he is considered the last truly English king.

Now supporters are seeking the exhumation of what they believe to be the remains of King Harold II, killed by an arrow through the eye at the Battle of Hastings.

His death in 1066 changed the future of Britain and the English Liberty Foundation says the Holy Trinity Church, in Bosham, should have a suitable memorial at the site which they believe to be his final resting place.

Michael Willhelm, from the foundation, presented a declaration to the church yesterday requesting they allow an exhumation within one year to allow for DNA testing of the bone fragments to confirm once and for all whether it is the Anglo-Saxon monarch.

‘It was a very emotional day for me,’ said 37-year-old Mr Willhelm, a local historian from Westbourne.

‘I’ve been going to the church with my gran since I was a boy. It’s been a family obsession.

‘I went in and read my declaration which gives the church a year to start the process of possible exhumation.

‘I also raised the White Dragon of England flag on the flag pole – the original English flag. It is something I have always dreamed of doing.

‘The evidence that it is King Harold is overwhelming – crucially the injuries are what you would expect. He was mutilated. If the church does not agree to the exhumation we will consider taking legal action.’

King Harold’s family once owned Bosham. An image of King Harold feasting at Bosham is on the Bayeux Tapestry.

The myth he was buried in the church surfaced in the 1950s when builders discovered two stone coffins under the chancel while they were repairing paving slabs.

The small one was said to be the sarcophagus of King Canute’s daughter, while the other was forgotten about until the early 2000s when late Bosham resident John Pollock announced that he believed it to be King Harold.

In 2003 the Chichester Diocese held a Consistory Court to hear evidence on whether an exhumation should be carried out to try and identify the bones.

The verdict was that, even if the exhumation did take place, there would be no way of telling if it was King Harold, therefore there would be no benefit to disturbing the remains.

And James Kenny, archaeological officer for Chichester, agrees.

He said: ‘They might be right. The remains of King Harold might be buried under the church but the chances are very slim. I would say it’s almost 100 per cent that it could never be proved one way or another.

‘Even if they are right there is no way of proving it so what’s the point? Things should be left as they are.’

The Rev Martin Lane said parishioners are as curious as Mr Willhelm but it would be a matter for the diocese to decide, not for him.