Looking for a dead medieval king? You might want to check under a parking lot.
That theory, at least, is on the minds of archaeologists and historians in Reading, about 40 miles west of London, who this week will begin searching for the high altar of the abbey founded by King Henry I. They believe that the altar — and, they hope, the king’s remains — could be under the parking lot of a local prison, near the abbey ruins. The area around a nearby nursery school will also be searched.
Nearly four years ago, archaeologists discovered King Richard III’s grave under a parking lot in Leicester, about 100 miles northwest of London, on the site of a former monastery.
Henry I, who ruled from 1100 to 1135, reportedly died after eating lampreys, a kind of jawless fish. A son of William the Conqueror, who ascended to the throne after the death of his elder brother William II, Henry has been described as a usurper because he seized the crown while another elder brother was away on a Crusade. Henry also had a reputation for cruelty; he is said to have had the tips of the noses of two of his granddaughters cut off. But he is also credited with strengthening the monarchy and putting in place efficient — if sometimes oppressive — administrative policies.
John Mullaney, a historian who is part of the team undertaking the search, said that archaeologists knew “within a few yards” where Henry was probably buried. He said the team would use ground-penetrating radar to search the area around the prison, and around a nearby nursery school.