Seeking Alfred's Body: Royal Tomb as Political Object in the Reign of Edward the Elder

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This article addresses a crux in the Fonthill Letter: why Helmstan, an outlawed thief, visited King Alfred's grave. This episode coincided with a succession dispute in which Alfred's son, Edward the Elder, was resisting a challenge for the kingdom. To enhance his legitimacy, Edward celebrated his father's legacy and promoted his grave, building Alfred a monumental mausoleum. Edward removed Helmstan's outlawry after the visit – a reversal that resembles instances in which condemned criminals were spared punishment after seeking sanctuary protection. I propose that as part of his political efforts, Edward offered comparable clemency to offenders who visited Alfred's grave.

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Early Medieval Europe

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