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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 December, 2003, 13:35 GMT
Exhumation of 'Harold' refused
King Harold II
The historians claim they have found King Harold's tomb

A group of historians have lost their battle to exhume a body from a medieval church to find out if it is the remains of King Harold.

A church court has refused permission for the contents of the tomb, at the Holy Trinity Church in Bosham, West Sussex, to be examined.

The historians, led by retired paper merchant John Pollock, wanted to see if DNA tests on the headless legless body in the coffin could confirm it was the Saxon king.

King Harold was reputedly killed by an arrow being shot through his eye and was then thought to have been buried at Waltham Abbey in Essex.

It was hoped permission from the church court to exhume the Bosham body, so a sample could be taken for testing, could prove otherwise.

'Exceptional grounds'

But on Wednesday, the Chancellor of Chichester Diocese, the Worshipful Mark Hill, refused the request in a written judgement following a Consistory Court hearing on 24 November.

The court heard three people claiming to be direct descendents all had different DNA and tests on the body would be pointless without a direct comparison.

Mr Hill said there were "complex scientific, historic and archaeological issues" surrounding the request.

But he said burial of the body should be seen as entrusting the person to God for resurrection.

Exhumation should only be carried out on "special and exceptional grounds" or for a "good reason."

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

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

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