Sunday 18 June 2023

KINGS IN CAR PARKS: Perhaps and perhaps not.

A couple Of days ago a friend thought that I might be interested in a brief piece from LBC news concerning Philippa Langley's claims that the body of King Henry I is currently residing under yet another car park Henry 1's tomb at Reading   at Reading Prison.  

I was interested. 
As many people probably know by now, Philippa Langley was responsible for the drive to find the tomb of King Richard III which led to a car park in Leicester built upon the site of the former Grey Friar's Priory and the discovery of the King's bones. 

While I think that Ms. Langley is probably right, concerning Henry I,  I also think that she might be disappointed if she hopes to find anything, and any 'psychic' feelings she might have on the issue, are echoes rather than actuality of presence of body.  My reason for thinking this is an article from The Times on Thursday December 8th 1785.  See what you think.

" It lately happened that the workmen employed in digging a foundation for the erection of a house of Correction at reading, in Berkshire, on the spot where the old Abbey stood, that divers bones were thrown up. This being the burial place of Henry I, each bone was seized as a kind of treasure, contemplating it as one of the king's; till at length a vault was discovered, the only one there, and which was of curious workmanship. In the vault was a leaden coffin, almost devoured by time. A perfect skeleton was contained therein, and which undoubtedly was the kings who died at the castle of Lyons in Rouen on the 2nd of September 1133. (A bit wrong on the dateline here, Which should read December, and Lyons la Foret was Henry I's hunting lodge), was then embalmed and sent from thence, according to his own desire to be interred in the abbey at reading. Antiquaries have frequently enquired where this monarch's remains may be found but time has effaced every possible mark; though it must be presumed heretofore, the spot has been royally and peculiarly distinguished.

After a series of 650 years, and upwards, it was hardly probable anything but dust could remain; but the distinguished appearance of the coffin, and the vault in which it was interred, put it out of doubt. The account given us by Rapin of the king's death and embalming the body further justifies the presumption that this coffin was the king's, especially as his body was cut in pieces, after the rude manner of those days, and embalmed. And Gervais of Canterbury confirms this account by saying they cut great gashes in his body with knives, and then powdering it well with salt, they wrapped it up in tanned oxides to avoid the stench and infections, and that a man who was hired to operate on the head, died presently after.

The gentleman to whom I am obliged for his account adds that fragments of rotten leather were found in the coffin. His curiosity was great, and so was that of the person's assembled in so much, that the bones were divided among the spectators, but the coffin was sold to a plumber. The under jawbone has been sent to me and a small piece of the leaden coffin. The jaw contains 16 teeth, perfect and sound, even the enamel in them is preserved."

The Times Thursday December 8th 1785

This strongly suggests to me that King Henry I's tomb was dissarranged and dispersed in the 18th century.  Of course I could be wrong, but if I was laying bets,  I would say this has strong odds of being the case and that any digging in Reading Prison car park is going to turn up zilch because the tomb's already been robbed out.   

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