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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 November, 2003, 12:01 GMT
Decision on 'King's tomb' reserved
King Harold II
The historians claim they have found King Harold's tomb
A church court has reserved judgment on whether a medieval tomb thought to contain the remains of King Harold II can be opened.

A group of amateur historians want the body, in a tomb in a West Sussex church, exhumed for DNA tests.

They believe the headless and legless body at Holy Trinity Church in Bosham is the king who was killed by William the Conqueror's army at the Battle of Hastings.

The Chichester Diocese Consistory Court has been tasked with deciding whether the tomb should be opened.

History has traditionally said King Harold was killed aged 46 with an arrow in the eye at the famous battle in 1066, but there has been debate over his burial place.

Bayeux Tapestry

Many experts think his most likely resting place is at Waltham Abbey, while others have said his grave was hidden by the victorious Norman troops to prevent it becoming a shrine.

The tomb in Bosham, where the king is believed to have grown up, was discovered by workmen in 1954, when it was last opened.

I've been here for 17 years and for all that time everyone has wanted to know the answer to this mystery
Canon Thomas Inman

The discovery sparked fresh debate over Harold's burial site, with historians claiming evidence from the Bayeux Tapestry suggested he was laid to rest in the church, where he is thought to have worshipped in his early years.

The group who have called for the tomb to be opened are led by retired paper merchant and amateur historian John Pollock.

He has suggested Harold may have been dismembered with a sword rather than killed with an arrow, explaining the lost limbs and head of the body he claims is the king.

If the exhumation is allowed, DNA will be taken from the tomb and compared with samples from three people who claim to be direct descendants of the king.

The work would be carried out by scientists at University College, London.

Canon Thomas Inman, the vicar at Holy Trinity Church, said: "I've been here for 17 years and for all that time everyone has wanted to know the answer to this mystery.

"The form now is that the court will consider its verdict, and we will probably hear by letter.

"We're not sure how long the decision will take."




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Robert Hall
"Evidence from beneath the church floor suggests he is still here"



SEE ALSO:
King's grave mystery may be unearthed
24 Nov 03  |  Southern Counties
'Saxons' march to disprove history
31 Jul 03  |  England
Battle over Hastings tea-shop
05 Nov 98  |  UK News


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