DNA analysis of the oldest royal bones in England has begun at Winchester Cathedral.

Experts could finally be on the verge of resolving an internationally-significant mystery that has perplexed historians for centuries.

Winchester Cathedral has until now insisted that the conservation work only related to the chests in which the bones were interred.

But now work on the bones themselves is understood to have begun.

The six mortuary chests have laid in the cathedral for over 350 years, which are thought to contain the bones of seven Anglo-Saxon kings, and one Norman monarch.

Experts believe those interred there include King Canute, King of England, Denmark and Norway, his Queen Emma of Normandy, as well as their son Harthacanute.

Canute, who died in Shaftesbury in November 1035, was originally buried in Winchester’s Old Minster before work on the city’s cathedral had even begun.

Two years ago the chests were moved from their original resting place, to the Lady Chapel at the cathedral, so work could begin without removing them from consecrated ground.

Visitors to the cathedral are being told by official tour guides that work to examine the DNA of the country’s oldest kings has begun at the Lady Chapel.

When asked about what is being said on their official tours, a Cathedral spokesman said: “I didn’t realise that that (information) was already out there.”

It has previously been reported that celebrity archaeologist Professor Mark Horton - best known for his work on the time Team programme - would be working on the bones, together with a team of scientists from Bristol University.

Two years ago the cathedral received Heritage Lottery Fund support for a £10.5m bid for repairs to the building’s fabric and development entitled Kings and Scribes – The Birth of a Nation.

A grant of £475,000 was awarded to fund the work required to make a full application.