Thursday, June 17, 2010

Eadgyth's bones

Eadgyth was the sister of Athelstan, the first person to have the title "King of England." Athelstan was also the victor at the Battle of Brunanburh (A.D. 937), immortalized in a famous poem:
Athelstan King,
Lord among Earls,
Bracelet-Bestower and
Baron of Barons . . .
Gaining a lifelong glory in battle
Slew with the sw0rd edge
There by Brunanburh
Brake the shield wall
Hew'd the linden-wood
Hack'd the battleshield
Sons of Edward with hammer'd brands.
in Tennyson's translation. Anyway, Athelstan's sister Eadgyth was married to Otto of Saxony in 929, when she was 19. (Actually Athelstan sent both Eadgyth and her sister Adiva to Germany and invited Otto to take his pick. I always thought Adiva would make an interesting subject for a novel.) She had a successful reign and died in 946. Her bones were moved several times and eventually put in a large tomb in Magdeburg cathedral, whence they were supposed to have disappeared during some later round of religious or political trouble. Now they have been rediscovered and are being studied by forensic anthropologists. Eadgyth was well-nourished and ate lots of fish, and her leg bones suggest she was frequently on a horse. Her bones are scheduled to be put back in her tomb by the end of the year.

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