King Harold was somewhat notoriously so battered after the Battle of Hastings, that there was trouble IDing him (one of those facts many kids know - an arrow to the face + battle wounds = childhood gore levels to the max) and due to his then death, the way was clear for us gaining a new ruling class, some ace tourist attractions and extra set of words to our mongrel language.
However... there's a bit of an idea that Harold survived, and lived locally and secretly as a religious hermit, before confessing his true identity on his deathbed and being buried at Waltham Abbey, Essex.
Cue a very keen author and "amateur historian" Peter Burke and the same production team, Oval Films, who worked on Richard III's discovery. They've just had the licence for archaeological shenanigans approved by English Heritage, and work can begin on playing Hunt the Harold.
Not to belittle how overjoyed many folks must be, as it must now make pitching a case for "we want to dig up X to find famous Y, we know it seems far fetched, but look what they found in Leicester..." much easier. Researchers and fans of the more unusual rumours of history finally have some great evidence to show it's worth taking a punt and following those threads, and popular consciousness has taken a keener interest in archaeology and DNA and all that stuff.
Now, call me jaded, but this now feels a little like a band wagon of a very strange flavour. Deceased royalty of yore becoming the must have for any tourist economy, as well as a string of TV shows and book opportunities. Yes it has engaged media and the public further with archaeology, but in a glory seeking way, rather than showing how the painstaking study of medieval ghost villages, combined with parish records can help us understand the development of towns and cities and how migratory people were. It encourages people to visit because of a 'celebrity' skeleton rather than reasons of specific archaeological or historical interest (e.g. "This helps us understand how people with a disability lived and worked..." although, being fair on Ricky, he has helped us with that)
I'm also a little amused at how two different sources have described Oval Films. "which also helped to find Richard III’s remains in a car park in Leicester" and "the team behind the discovery of Richard III’s remains in 2012". Fine, if they funded it, organised it, whatever, but reporting so far is a touch muddy, and I feel a sorry for the University of Leicester Archaeological Services given they are seemingly incidental in all of the archaeological work required! (not to mention the Richard III Society, assorted researchers, experts...)
There is a long held belief that William permitted the burial, in secret, of Harold's mutilated body at Waltham Abbey (as well a few other claimants to his final resting place) so it could be that he rests there not as an elderly survivor, but rather as a slightly dismembered corpse. I'll be keeping an eye on the developments, but my initial hopes are low, and I'm hoping that Peter Burke isn't left too disappointed if it all obviously falls apart a bit early on.
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2744368/Author-s-quest-prove-Anglo-Saxon-monarch-died-30-years-Battle-Hastings-buried-Essex-churchyard.html (sorry for the daily mail, but they seem to provide very thorough articles!)
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