In 1190 (possibly early 1191), during the abbacy of Henry of Sully, a miraculous discovery was made. Sometime before his death, Henry II was allegedly told by a Welsh bard that the burial place of King Arthur was to be found deep down, between two pyramids in the cemetery of Glastonbury Abbey. Henry presumably passed this information on to the abbot. The theory goes that the discovery of Arthur’s body should, if properly promoted, result in increased pilgrim traffic, and therefore increased revenues for the abbey to continue its reconstruction.
So, possibly with this cheery possibility in mind, the digging began in 1190. The diggers were rewarded by the unearthing, 16 feet down, of a hollowed-out log containing the remains of Arthur and his queen, Guenevere. This discovery caused a great public stir, but, curiously enough, was not greatly exploited by the abbey. In fact, the disposition of the remains of the bodies was unknown until 1230, when there were kept in the treasury in the east range of the abbey.
Even if the abbey didn’t use the discovery of Arthur’s body to its advantage, Edward I seized the opportunity to make political hay. On a visit of the king and queen to Glastonbury in 1278, Arthur’s remains were transported to a permanent resting place in the main abbey church. This public event was designed to be a shattering blow to the Celtic fringes, since, if Arthur was dead, he could obviously not returned to help his people in their time of need (a persistent belief among the celtic people). At the same time, Edward proclaimed his son Prince of Wales, fusing England and Wales, and thereby hamstringing the Welsh independence movement.
A place said to be Arthur’s tomb is a location marked by a stone slab on the River Camel in Cornwall. However, the description says the buried person in Latinus son of Magarus and experts say it is not in its original location.
Henry de Sully
Died: 23 or 24 October 1195.
A monk, Bishop of Worcester and Abbot of Glastonbury. After the death of Henry II of England, Henry was appointed Abbot of Glastonbury of Richard I of England. During his time as abbot he claimed to find the body of King Arthur around 1191. On December 4th 1193, he was elected to the see of Worcester and concecrated on December 12th 1193.
Edward I of England
Also known as Edward Longshanks, Hammer of the Scots (Malleus Scotorum)
Born: 17/18 June 1239 | Coronation: 19 August 1274 | Died: 7 July 1307
King Edward was very interested in the stories of King Arthur. He visited Glastonbury Abbey in 1278, to open the grave where Arthur and Guinevere was supposed to be, to recover “Arthur’s crown” from Llywelyn after the conquest of North Wales. Edward held tournaments and feasting, such as King Arthur was thought to do – so called “Round Tables”.