The King was dead, killed at the Battle of Hastings on the 14th October 1066. King Harold’s final journey was about to begin.
It took Edith Swanneck, Harold’s Danish law wife, to identify the body from marks that ‘only she knew’ but what happened next has not been accurately recorded.
Bosham, West Sussex, was Harold’s family home and his body may have been carried back to Bosham and buried in a grave of stones overlooking the shore.
In the 1950s, the discovery of an Anglo-Saxon coffin in the church led some to speculate that King Harold was buried there but in December 2004, a bid to exhume the grave was refused by the Diocese of Chichester, the Chancellor ruling that the chances of establishing the identity of the body as Harold II were too slim to justify disturbing a burial place. There is also, reputedly, a tomb of King Harold II at Waltham Abbey, the Church of the Holy Cross, which he had re-founded in 1060. Legend has it that his body was moved to Waltham from Bosham some seven years later and finally given a ‘proper funeral’.
1066 Harold’s Way, The Final Journey will follow King Harold’s body from Battle Abbey to Bosham, traversing almost the whole of Sussex from East to West. The route will follow the trackways and Roman roads still in use in the 11th century and through many of the Saxon towns and villages that are mentioned in the Domesday Book. There will be a need to detour for railway stations and buses, pubs and accommodation but 1066 Harold’s Way, The Final Journey will remain a walk through history.