The granddaughter of Alfred the Great came back to England on Tuesday — or at least fragments of a body returned, more than 1,000 years after the Wessex princess was packed off by her brother as a diplomatic gift to a Saxon king.

Tests in Bristol are expected to provide further proof that Eadgyth (roughly pronounced Edith) was indeed the woman found wrapped in silk and sealed in a lead coffin, inside a stone sarcophagus at Magdeburg Cathedral in Germany.

“Her brother Athelstan was the first king of a unified England, her husband became the first Holy Roman Emperor and her blood runs in the veins of every royal family in Europe,” said Professor Mark Horton of Bristol University.

There is no contemporary portrait of Eadgyth and few insights into her life. She was born in Wessex in 910 into one of the most powerful families in England, daughter of Edward the Elder, and half-sister to Athelstan, well on his way to being recognised as the first king of all England.

In 929 he sent her and her sister, Adiva, off to Otto and invited him to take his pick, sealing an alliance between two of the rising stars of the Saxon world: Otto chose Eadgyth. They had at least two children before she died in 946.

The monument in the soaring Gothic cathedral built centuries after her death was known as her tomb, but historians believed it was empty till it was opened by archaeologists in 2008 revealing a beautifully preserved coffin. An inscription recorded that it was the body of Eadgyth, reburied in 1510. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010

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