Sussex

King Harold 'may have survived Battle of Hastings' claim

Battle of Hastings re-enactment Image copyright GARETH FULLER/PA
Image caption The Battle of Hastings was re-enacted at the weekend, with King Harold, centre, taking an arrow in the eye

An underground scan is being carried out at Waltham Abbey in Essex in a hunt for evidence that King Harold survived the Battle of Hastings.

Novelist and amateur historian Peter Burke wants to test his theory that the king recovered and lived for 40 years after the battle on 14 October 1066.

He is challenging historical records which state that King Harold was killed by William the Conqueror's soldiers.

Battle Historical Society said the theory was unlikely to be true.

Death bed declaration

Mr Burke is sponsoring a search for the remains of King Harold, widely believed to be buried in the grounds of Waltham Abbey.

He said the alternative version of Harold's death comes from a 12th Century document, Vita Harold, in the British Library which he found while researching his trilogy The Promise.

"It was taken from a young novice priest who took the last rites of an old pilgrim called Christian who declared on his death bed that he was Harold Godwinson, the last Saxon king," said Mr Burke.

"He was hidden in Winchester and brought back to health by a Moorish nurse. He tried to raise an army in Germany but they weren't interested and he spent his life travelling as a pilgrim."

Image copyright Hulton archive/Getty Images
Image caption The Bayeux Tapestry depicts the Battle of Hastings and the death of King Harold

The scan, taking place on the 948th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings, is being carried out by the geological survey company which helped to locate the remains of King Richard III in 2012 beneath a car park in Leicester.

Neil Clephane-Cameron, from Battle and District Historical Society, said the story that King Harold survived the battle did not sit comfortably with him.

"The contemporary accounts, both Norman and Saxon, all give the fact that Harold was killed at the battle," he said.

"Even if there is a body at Waltham it doesn't mean that he necessarily survived but it might confirm whether the accounts are correct because there should be be fairly distinctive giveaways."

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