Once again, medieval history (and my old department at Cambridge, Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic ) is in the news, this time in relation to skeletal remains found in a crypt in the Cathedral of Madeburg, Germany, which may shortly prove to be those of the beloved tenth-century English princess Eadgyth (Edith). Eadgyth, the daughter of Edward the Elder and granddaughter of Alfred the Great, was married off by her half-brother, King Aethelstan, to Duke Otto of Saxony, the future Holy Roman Emporer. Beloved by the people for her beauty, charity, and charm, Eadgyth was lauded in her time as “the best of all women”.
The lead coffin bearing the silk-enshrouded remains was discovered in 2008 inside a stone sarcophagus previously thought empty. Inscriptions on the coffin which name the occupant as Eadgyth also state that, prior to their re-internment in Madeburg Cathedral in 1510, the remains had already been moved twice—a fact previously known from written sources. The skeleton has now been taken to Bristol University to undergo strontium isotope analysis. (Strontium isotope levels in tooth enamel can pinpoint where a person grew up.) If the bones can be proven to be from Western or Southern England (that is, the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of Wessex or Mercia where it is known Eadgyth spent her childhood), then there will be no doubt that they are Eadgyth’s. They will also be the earliest identifiable remains from Anglo-Saxon England.
Read the details here:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2010/jan/20/alfred-great-granddaughter-remains-wessex. [Kennedy, Maev (20 January 2010). “Guardian.co.uk”. Remains of Alfred the Great’s granddaughter returned / Coming home: the Saxon queen lost for 1,000 years (Guardian): pp. 5.]