Alfred quest will fail, says expert

King Alfred the Great, 871-901.
King Alfred the Great, 871-901.
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A hunt for the remains of King Alfred the Great are likely to be doomed to failure, with results likely to be inconclusive, according to a Sheffield University historian.

A BBC2 documentary is attempting to identify bones exhumed from an unmarked Winchester grave.

The search for the remains of the Anglo-Saxon king comes after a Channel 4 documentary featured the discovery of Richard III’s remains beneath a Leicester car park.

Sheffield University medieval history lecturer Dr Charles West said he was sceptical DNA testing would provide a conclusive result.

He said: “Alfred is buried with his son Edward and I don’t think they will be able to distinguish between their bones.

“Furthermore, even if a living descendant came forward to help corroborate the find – as in the case of Richard III – it would be difficult to prove a genetic link.

“Alfred died such a long time ago that, even if they did prove descent, we’re all likely to be related in one way or another. Even if they could prove it was Alfred, it really wouldn’t change anything about him or the period.”

The BBC2 investigation is still believed to be at an early stage.