Channel 4 return to the story of Richard III with another documentary on the deceased monarch. Richard III: The New Evidence features the work of scientists who have combined cutting-edge analysis of Richard’s III’s bone chemistry with evidence from historical records to bring together a fascinating look at his lifestyle.
A recent study by the British Geological Survey, in association with researchers at the University of Leicester, has delved into the bone and tooth chemistry of King Richard III and uncovered fascinating new details about the life and diet of Britain’s last Plantagenet king.
“This cutting edge research has provided a unique opportunity to shed new light on the diet and environment of a major historical figure –Richard III. It is very rare indeed in archaeology to be able to identify a named individual with precise dates and a documented life. This has enabled the stable-isotope analysis to show how his environment changed at different times in his life and, perhaps most significantly, identified marked changes in his diet when he became king in 1483.“ – Richard Buckley from the University of Leicester Archaeological Services and lead archaeologist in the Richard III dig
The production will look at his drinking habits and how they changed significantly around the time he became king: during the last three years of his life, he consumed about a bottle of wine a day. His overall daily alcohol consumption is likely to have been two to three litres.
Also investigated is his diet as King. During the last three years of his life, Richard started consuming an array of incredibly rich food, composed of exotic meats and freshwater fish and likely to include birds such as swan, crane, heron and egret.
Other topics covered within Richard III: The New Evidence includes research on his location during pivotal moments in his life and the existence of a living ‘body-double’, Dominic Smee, who shares Richard’s precise spinal condition and light build. Experiments conducted with Dominic demonstrate that, despite the scoliosis that severely twisted his spine, Richard III was physically capable of everything required to fight in a medieval battle.
“The chemistry of Richard III’s teeth and bones reveals fascinating changes in his geographical movements, diet and social status throughout his life. Richard’s diet when he was King was far richer than that of other equivalent high status individuals in the late medieval period. We know he was banqueting a lot more, there was a lot of wine indicated at those banquets and tying all that together with the bone chemistry it looks like this feasting had quite an impact on his body in the last few years of his life.” – Doctor Angela Lamb, Isotope Geochemist and lead author of the paper
Information from the forensic study – the most complete to have been conducted – of a medieval monarch can be seen in the documentary, Richard III: The New Evidence, on Channel 4 on Sunday 17th August at 9pm.