Richard III had lavish diet of swan and wine, new forensic study reveals

Richard III began to drink more wine and enjoyed a diet filled with lavish foods such as swan, crane and heron after becoming king in 1483, new research has shown

Richard III (Photo by Apic/Getty Images)

Through isotope analysis of his bone and tooth material, researchers have uncovered previously unknown details about Richard III’s earlier life, as well as evidence of change in the king’s diet in later years.

The cutting-edge research, undertaken by the British Geological Society, looked at chemicals from the teeth, femur and ribs. The findings show there were substantial chemical changes in the king’s rib bone, which renews itself relatively quickly and therefore provides an insight into the last two to five years of the king’s life.

The study is the most complete to have been conducted on a medieval monarch, providing a much more detailed insight into the diet and lifestyle of Britain’s last Plantagenet king.

The research also offers an insight into the different kinds of environments Richard lived in during his life. The chemicals found in the teeth indicate a change of location in his early childhood, and researchers can confirm he had moved from Fotheringay Castle in eastern England by the time he was seven.

And by examining the femur, which represents an average of the 15 years before death, researchers show that Richard moved back to eastern England as an adolescent or young adult, and had a diet that matched the highest aristocracy.

Richard Buckley from the University of Leicester Archaeological Services, and lead archaeologist in the Richard III dig, said: “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 time in his life and , perhaps most significantly, identified marked changes in his diet when he became king in 1483.”

The latest findings, which are published in Elsevier’s Journal of Archaeological Science, will feature in a Channel 4 documentary on Sunday 17 August at 9pm, Richard III: The New Evidence.

Written by Carmela Rodriguez

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