As It Happens

King Henry I's remains may be under parking lot in Reading, England

A group of historians and archaeologists have begun the search for the missing remains of King Henry I using ground-penetrating radar technology.
Researchers are using ground-penetrating radar machines like this one to search the area. (Reading's Hidden Abbey/John Mullaney)

A group of historians and archaeologists in Reading, England have begun the search for the missing remains of King Henry I. Using ground-penetrating radar technology, the team is searching under a parking lot and a school playground by Reading Abbey, which Henry I founded in 1121.

"We have a very good idea of where he was buried. Now, that's not quite the same as where he is buried, because it's 900 years ago," says John Mullaney, a historian who's part of The Hidden Abbey Project.

Reading Abbey (Reading Abbey Quarter Facebook)

Henry I died in Normandy, France in 1135 after eating lamprey, a type of fish. But, due to bad weather, it took a while to get his body home to England.

"He was finally brought back to England, by which time, his body was seeping through the ox hide which he'd been wrapped. The stench of his body is reported to have actually killed one of the people looking after him," explains Mullaney.

A painting depicting the burial of King Henry I. (Reading Museum Facebook)

Mullaney says Henry designed the abbey as his mausoleum and expressed his desire to be buried there. However, hundreds of years after the king's death, much of the abbey was destroyed.

"The story is that Henry's tomb was desecrated, was robbed. But, again, we have no documentary evidence of that."

If the team finds Henry I's remains, it won't be the first time that a king has been found under a parking lot. King Richard III's remains were found in Leicester, England a few years ago.

Over the coming weeks, researchers will be analysing the parking lot and playground for the remains. If found, Mullaney hopes that Henry I will be reburied at his abbey.

"He built that place for his burial site. The honourable thing to do would be to reinter them where they're found."

Reading Abbey (Reading Abbey Quarter Facebook)


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