In 2003, a Saxon burial in an intact burial chamber was unearthed between an Aldi shop and a pub in Southend. Clearly an important person, almost certainly royalty, the items in the grave make it the earliest Christian royal burial in England. Now, 16 years on, with conservation and studies complete, many of the items belonging to the ‘Prittlewell Prince’ are going on display in the Central Museum.
There was only one tooth remaining from the ‘prince’ himself but the array of preserved grave-goods was staggering: a lyre, a painted box that is a one of its kind, a golden belt buckle, golden crosses to cover his eyes, an iron stool, gold-decorated pottery and a sword with gold wire around a hilt made of horn. Parts of his coffin also survived and measurements indicate he was approximately 5ft 6.
So who was this wealthy early Christian Saxon? The best guess is that he was Saexa, the brother of King Saebert , who was King of Essex from AD604 to AD616. It was originally thought the burial might be Saebert himself but the carbon dates are slightly too early, more in keeping with the date of his brother’s death.
Some have likened this unique find to opening King Tut’s tomb…
So, who were the Saxon Kings of Essex? Here’s a genealogy. Note that, unlike the more geographically distant Wuffings of East Anglia, there seems to be no family link to the House of Wessex.