Waltham Abbey is abuzz after the discovery of Richard III’s body in a Leicestershire car park renewed speculation about the exact location of the town’s own lost king.
The grave of King Harold, killed at the Battle of Hastings in 1066, has long drawn visitors to the Abbey Church, but there is a 1,000-year-old mystery as to whether he is really buried there.
The last Saxon king of England is, with Richard III, one of only three kings to have died in battle, and the announcement this week by a team from the University of Leicester has led to speculation that Epping Forest could be the next target for the archaeologists’ spades.
Tony O’Connor, the director of the Epping Forest District Museum in Sun Street, said: “The Richard discovery does really raise the issue around where England’s hidden kings are buried. One of the things we would like to do is look at the question of Harold’s burial in the remains of the Great Church of the abbey.
“If someone would like to fund us, I think there are quite a number of people who would be very keen to put proposals for a dig to the appropriate body.”
The site of the Abbey Church was consecrated by King Harold in 1060, and a holy cross which he prayed beneath in the weeks before his death in 1066 is said to be buried under the Sun Street car park next door.
Some historical accounts suggest that Harold may be buried in Sussex, with just his head and heart buried in Waltham Abbey, but the discovery of his head would clear up the disputed suggestion – as depicted in the Bayeaux Tapestry – that he was killed by an arrow in the eye.
Mr O’Connor said: “We’ve got a written account from the 13th century that places Harold in Waltham Abbey. I think we can make a great claim to it.”
But Peter Huggins, of the town’s historical society, who helped discover an important contemporary statue of the Virgin Mary under a , said Harold should be left alone.
He added: “I think we’ve got to assume he’s in his own church – the third one built on the site.
“It’s likely he’s staying there. He deserves to.”