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Tomb of King Alfred the Great's grand-daughter found in Germany

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posted on Jan, 20 2010 @ 11:57 AM
The tomb of one of King Alfred's grand-daughters has (possibly) been found in a German cathedral where she went to marry the Holy Roman Emperor Otto I in the 10th century:

The crumbling remains of Alfred the Great's granddaughter - a Saxon princess who married one of the most powerful men in Europe - have been unearthed more than 1,000 years after her death.
The almost intact bones of Queen Eadgyth - the early English form of Edith - were discovered wrapped in silk, inside a lead coffin in a German cathedral.
Eadgyth - one of the oldest members of the English royal family - was given in marriage to the influential Holy Roman Emperor Otto I and lived in Germany until her death in 946AD, aged 36.

Statue from Magdeburg Cathedral said to represent Eadgyth and Otto I

"Eadgyth's brother King Athelstan, depicted presenting a book to Saint Cuthbert, the bishop of Lindisfarne".

Otto I, Holy Roman Emperor

Yesterday, British archaeologists involved in the find hailed it as 'one of the most exciting historical discoveries in recent years'.
The bones have now been brought back to Eadgyth's native Wessex for scientific tests to fully confirm her identity.

Queen Eadgyth lived at the dawn of the English nation.

Her grandfather Alfred the Great was the first monarch to style himself King of the Anglo Saxons, while her step-brother Athelstan was the first King of the English.
Her bones were unearthed at Madgeburg Cathedral in Germany. The preliminary findings will be announced at a conference at the University of Bristol today.

The above quotes and pictures are all from the Daily Mail article.

Here is the same story from the BBC News:

Remains of one of the earliest members of the English royal family may have been unearthed in a German cathedral, a Bristol University research team says.
They believe a near-complete female skeleton, aged 30 to 40, found wrapped in silk in a lead coffin in Magdeburg Cathedral is that of Queen Eadgyth.
The granddaughter of Alfred the Great, she married Otto I, Holy Roman Emperor, in 929. She died 17 years later, at 36.
The team aims to prove her identity by tracing isotopes in her bones.
Professor Mark Horton, of Bristol's department of archaeology and anthropology, said: "We know that Saxon royalty moved around quite a lot, and we hope to match the isotope results with known locations around Wessex and Mercia, where she could have spent her childhood.

Queen Eadgyth's brother, King Athelstan, is considered to have been the first king of England after he unified various Saxon and Celtic kingdoms after the battle of Brunanburh in 937, Bristol University said.
After marriage, Queen Eadgyth lived in Saxony and had two children with Otto.
Their direct descendents ruled Germany until 1254 and formed many of the royal families of Europe that followed.

Here is a link to a Wiki article about Eadgyth, giving more information about her background:

[edit on 20-1-2010 by berenike]

posted on Jan, 20 2010 @ 12:32 PM
I wonder how that family had King's in 2 countries that were brothers.

Must be a powerful family...

posted on Jan, 20 2010 @ 12:38 PM
Good post.

Thanks for the information.

Every year, we learn more about the past.

posted on Jan, 20 2010 @ 01:06 PM
Here is a link to an extremely interesting wiki article about Otto:

Otto succeeded his father as king of the Germans in 936. He arranged for his coronation to be held in Charlemagne's former capital, Aachen, where he was anointed by Hildebert archbishop of Mainz, primate of the German church. According to the Saxon historian Widukind of Corvey, at his coronation banquet he had the four other dukes of the empire, those of Franconia, Swabia, Bavaria and Lorraine, act as his personal attendants: Arnulf I of Bavaria as marshal (or stablemaster), Herman I, Duke of Swabia as cupbearer, Eberhard III of Franconia as steward (or seneschal), and Gilbert of Lorraine as Chamberlain.[2] Thus from the outset of his reign he signalled that he was the successor to Charlemagne, whose last heirs in East Francia had died out in 911, and that he had the German church, with its powerful bishops and abbots, behind him. Otto intended to dominate the church and use that sole unifying institution in the German lands in order to establish an institution of theocratic imperial power.[citation needed] The Church offered wealth, military manpower and its monopoly on literacy. For his part the Emperor offered protection against the nobles, the promise of endowments, and an avenue to power as his ministeriales.

[edit on 20-1-2010 by berenike]

posted on Jan, 20 2010 @ 01:13 PM
Wow - another great find!
Well done.

I hope to see more discussion about it here.

posted on Jan, 20 2010 @ 01:16 PM
reply to post by Vanitas

Hi - I'm adding a few more bits of info to round out the thread.

Here's a Wiki article on Eadgyth's grand-father, Alfred the Great:

Alfred was born in 849 at Wantage, Oxfordshire (in the historic county of Berkshire). He was the youngest son of King Æthelwulf of Wessex, by his first wife, Osburga.[2] In 868 Alfred married Ealhswith, daughter of Æthelred Mucil.[3]
At the age of five years, Alfred is said to have been sent to Rome where, according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle,[4] he was confirmed by Pope Leo IV who "anointed him as king". Victorian writers interpreted this as an anticipatory coronation in preparation for his ultimate succession to the throne of Wessex. However, his succession could not have been foreseen at the time, as Alfred had three living elder brothers. A letter of Leo IV shows that Alfred was made a "consul"; a misinterpretation of this investiture, deliberate or accidental, could explain later confusion.[5] It may also be based on Alfred's later having accompanied his father on a pilgrimage to Rome where he spent some time at the court of Charles the Bald, King of the Franks, around 854–855. On their return from Rome in 856, Æthelwulf was deposed by his son Æthelbald. With civil war looming, the magnates of the realm met in council to hammer out a compromise. Æthelbald would retain the western shires (i.e., traditional Wessex), and Æthelwulf would rule in the east. King Æthelwulf died in 858; meanwhile Wessex was ruled by three of Alfred's brothers in succession.
Bishop Asser tells the story of how as a child Alfred won a prize of a volume of poetry in English, offered by his mother to the first of her children able to memorise it. This story may be true, or it may be a myth intended to illustrate the young Alfred's love of learning.

Coin of Alfred, King of Wessex. (from Wiki article).

This statue of Alfred can be found in Winchester:

[edit on 20-1-2010 by berenike]

posted on Jan, 20 2010 @ 01:17 PM

Originally posted by breakingdradles
I wonder how that family had King's in 2 countries that were brothers.

Must be a powerful family...

They were VERY powerful.
But don't forget, due to the politics of the time it wasn't unusual for a family to have their members as rulers in more than one country at a time.
(And certain individuals, like Aliénor of Aquitaine, sat on TWO thrones at the same time!)

[edit on 20-1-2010 by Vanitas]

posted on Jan, 20 2010 @ 01:32 PM
Here's a Wiki article on Edward the Elder, Eadgyth's father:

When Alfred died, Edward's cousin Æthelwold, the son of King Æthelred of Wessex, rose up to claim the throne and began Æthelwold's Revolt. He seized Wimborne, in Dorset, where his father was buried, and Christchurch (then in Hampshire, now in Dorset). Edward marched to Badbury and offered battle, but Æthelwold refused to leave Wimborne. Just when it looked as if Edward was going to attack Wimborne, Æthelwold left in the night, and joined the Danes in Northumbria, where he was announced as King. In the meantime, Edward is alleged to have been crowned at Kingston upon Thames on 8 June 900 [10]
In 901, Æthelwold came with a fleet to Essex, and encouraged the Danes in East Anglia to rise up. In the following year, he attacked Cricklade and Braydon. Edward arrived with an army, and after several marches, the two sides met at the Battle of Holme. Æthelwold and King Eohric of the East Anglian Danes were killed in the battle.
Relations with the North proved problematic for Edward for several more years. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle mentions that he made peace with the East Anglian and Northumbrian Danes "of necessity". There is also a mention of the regaining of Chester in 907, which may be an indication that the city was taken in battle.[11]
In 909, Edward sent an army to harass Northumbria. In the following year, the Northumbrians retaliated by attacking Mercia, but they were met by the combined Mercian and West Saxon army at the Battle of Tettenhall, where the Northumbrian Danes were destroyed. From that point, they never raided south of the River Humber.
Edward then began the construction of a number of fortresses (burhs), at Hertford, Witham and Bridgnorth. He is also said to have built a fortress at Scergeat, but that location has not been identified. This series of fortresses kept the Danes at bay. Other forts were built at Tamworth, Stafford, Eddisbury and Warwick. These burhs were built to the same specifications (within centimetres) as those within the territory that his father had controlled; it has been suggested on this basis that Edward actually built them all.

This picture of Edward was taken from another source:

This article is about Athelstan, Eadgyth's brother:

Athelstan was groomed as king from an early age. This process was begun by Athelstan's grandfather, the ninth century king Alfred the Great. Alfred was king of Wessex with aspirations to bring England together under one monarch. Looking to the future he sent his grandson to the Midlands to be raised as a Mercian prince. Alfred's plan came to fruition in 924 on the death of Athelstan's father, Edward the Elder. Following on from the Mercian upbringing, Mercian councillors were sympathetic to Athelstan and gave him their votes when it came to choosing a new king. Inspite of inevitable opposition, Athelstan took the throne, and was to become the King of England, as Alfred had planned.

This is Athelstan's tomb in Malmesbury Abbey (taken from another source):

And here's a picture of Malmesbury Abbey (taken from the infobritain site):

[edit on 20-1-2010 by berenike]

posted on Jan, 20 2010 @ 02:43 PM
Great posts!! Nice work, well documented and very well presented!

Alfred may be the only British ruler to date to be called "the Great" but he sure had an intriguing family history with lots of connections to other countries' royal houses and thus histories.

Can we find a detailed family tree of his descendants? I am curious about some later kings in Europe

posted on Jan, 20 2010 @ 03:50 PM
reply to post by berenike
Nice thread Berenike. I was thinking about posting the same subject today after listening to short interview on BBC radio 4 today. One of the historians involved with identifying her remains was interviewed. The sheer bloody enthusiasm in his voice was infectious. At 36 he described her as being lucky to live so long!

Threads like this help to share the reality of what the study of history is all about. They aren't 'stuck in a box' or 'sticking to the story.' A lot of very informed folk are bringing the past to life...and they love their subject.

posted on Jan, 20 2010 @ 04:36 PM

Originally posted by Kandinsky
At 36 he described her as being lucky to live so long!

In a way, that is very true. But I worry that this kind of comment (on the part of the historian, I mean) might unduly perpetuate certain misconceptions about the life expectancy in earlier eras.

Early mortality among women - mostly because of complications associated with childbirth - was incomparably higher than today, of course.
And let's not even mention child (especially infant) mortality!

However, if s/he survived childhood and/or childbirth, the "average" person could expect to live more or less as long as today. The often quoted "average" life expectancy is brought down precisely by the great number of people who died in their infancy or at childbirth.

I only mention this because I have noticed that many people (not the participants of this thread) have the mistaken impression that a shorter life span was somehow "inherent" in the genetic makeup of people in earlier eras - which, of course, isn't true.

posted on Jan, 20 2010 @ 04:46 PM
reply to post by Vanitas
It's funny your raise that point. I thought the same thing when he mentioned it in interview. He suggested the nobility lived longer i.e. 36. Perhaps it was editing and he went on to clarify that 36 wasn't necessarily old? He was a professor and would, of course, know.

The popular impression is short people and short lives...neither are true.

posted on Jan, 20 2010 @ 06:13 PM
reply to post by Maegnas

I think this might help - there are 64 pages of Alfred's descendants

If you want to know anything about the individuals on the list you'd need to do a google search.

I chose a name at random - Eleanor de Welles - and found this site with her details:

A more interesting descendant was St Margaret Queen of Scotland:

For some years another prince enjoyed the hospitality of the Confessor; when his father Duncan was murdered by Macbeth, Malcolm III of Scotland was sent for safety to the English Court. There he may have met Margaret, his future Queen.

Here' a picture of Margaret (taken from another source):

One could spend many a happy hour investigating them all.

[edit on 20-1-2010 by berenike]

posted on Jan, 20 2010 @ 06:37 PM

Originally posted by berenike

Statue from Magdeburg Cathedral said to represent Eadgyth and Otto I

Is she trying to send us a message? Was he really that big? Bwahahaha!

posted on Jan, 20 2010 @ 07:15 PM
Here's another article about Eadgyth - this has more information about her and how she was perceived at the time she was living:

Eadgyth grew up at the dawn of the 10th century, a period during which her half brother King Athelstan extended his rule over all of England and drew on his sisters to cement his influence among foreign rulers.

"He's well known for having a superfluity of half sisters, and he married them off to the ruling houses of the rest of the known world," Keynes said.

Eadgyth was destined for Duke Otto of Saxony, a warlord's son who would eventually rise to become the first ruler of the Holy Roman Empire.

Tradition holds that she and her younger sister Adiva were both presented to Otto, who was invited to pick which one he liked best. Eadgyth's looks and charm won out over her sister's youth.

Keynes groaned when asked whether Eadgyth could be compared to Diana, whose marriage to Prince Charles in 1981 captured the world's imagination.

But then he read from the chronicle of Hroswitha of Gandersheim, a contemporary of the princess, who said Eadgyth was "resplendent with a wondrous charm of queenly bearing."

Then followed a particularly florid passage in which German nun writes: "Public opinion by unanimous decision rated her the best of all women who existed at that time."

[edit on 20-1-2010 by berenike]

posted on Jan, 20 2010 @ 08:25 PM
Talk about the medieval Lady E

thanks a million berenike for that link. I wanted to examine if the Greek royal house had any connections (most probably through Queen Victoria of England) to Alfred the Great.

posted on Jan, 21 2010 @ 06:10 AM
reply to post by ViperFoxBat

Thank you for drawing my attention to Eadgyth's hands. I'd noticed before that she was holding a book but hadn't thought much about its significance.

Books were a bit thin on the ground in the 10th century so I think it's quite a tribute that, a few centuries later, this queen should be depicted holding one.

I'm guessing that it's a reference to her piety or scholarship, although even in those days maybe the rich and famous took every opportunity to plug their autobiographies

Here's a link to a Wiki article on the history of books - fascinating stuff for anyone who has the time to read it:

Before the invention and adoption of the printing press, almost all books were copied by hand, which made books expensive and comparatively rare. Smaller monasteries usually had only a few dozen books, medium-sized perhaps a few hundred. By the ninth century, larger collections held around 500 volumes and even at the end of the Middle Ages, the papal library in Avignon and Paris library of Sorbonne held only around 2,000 volumes.[11]

[edit on 21-1-2010 by berenike]

posted on Jan, 21 2010 @ 08:47 AM

Originally posted by berenike
A more interesting descendant was St Margaret Queen of Scotland:

Yes, it is.

One can almost believe in humanity again.

posted on Jan, 21 2010 @ 09:04 AM

Originally posted by berenike
reply to post by ViperFoxBat

I'm guessing that it's a reference to her piety or scholarship

That is absolutely correct. It was a way of indicating that she was not only literate, but "well read".
(And since most books were breviaries and other religious compilations - not to mention the Bible itself - by implication it also signals her "piety". However, this was something of a given.)

But it was not as rare as one might think. An educated woman was clearly considered a woman of merit - a huge asset.

Which, again, goes against the current prejudices about the terrible dark Middle Ages...

(Oh, the irony...!

[edit on 21-1-2010 by Vanitas]

posted on Jan, 21 2010 @ 09:14 AM

Originally posted by Kandinsky

The popular impression is short people and short lives...neither are true.

And it's funny you raise THAT point...

Because while I was writing my post, I was also thinking of that other popular misconception: that people were practically midgets compared to today's population.

They were, of course, shorter on average.
But even then (and much, much earlier) there were also men and women who were tall. Some - Charlemagne,* for example (who, it seems, was well over 180 cms, closer to 190 cms and possibly taller) - would be considered tall even by today's standards.

* Speaking of Charlemagne, many people don't know that the "-magne" in his nickname doesn't refer to his "greatness" but to his physical stature. In other words, he was not called "Charles the Great" (even though he was, in my opinion) - he was simply "Charles the BIG one".

And I find it interesting that his biographer (his contemporary and close friend) does mention his great physical size, but does not make a lot of "fuss" about it, even though hyperboles were by no means foreign to the writing of the time.

[edit on 21-1-2010 by Vanitas]

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