Fascinating facts you might not know about Richard III

The newly dug-up monarch will finally be laid to rest this week so we thought we’d bring you the lowdown on the last English King to die in battle

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Richard III is getting buried on Thursday – more than 500 years after his death and less than three years after his bones were found under a car park in Leicester.

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His interment at the city’s Cathedral will be presided over by the Archbishop of Canterbury and will have royal representation in the form of the Countess of Wessex.

Before that, Saturday’s Channel 4 documentary Richard III: The Princes in the Tower examines whether Richard was really responsible for the deaths of young King Edward V and his brother Richard and C4‘s live show on Sunday, Richard III: Return of the King, will see the king’s mortal remains taken from the University of Leicester where they were scientifically analysed, to the site of the battle in Bosworth where he died in 1485.

He’s an interesting chap is Richard III. Villified by Shakespeare as the man who killed the Princes (we will never know if he did), his reputation has been staunchly defended by the Richard III Society which was founded in 1924 to defend his name.

So what’s the truth about him?

Well here’s the most interesting stuff…

He met a bloody death…

First things first. Yes, he was the last King of England to die in battle. And one of only two. The other of course was King Harold who snuffed it at the Battle of Hastings in 1066, reputedly after taking an arrow to the eye. According to analysis of Richard’s skeleton he was cut down with a series of blows to the head – suggesting that contemporary reports that he wore his crown into battle (and therfore had an unprotected bonce) could have been true. Modern medicine would not have saved him…

He looked like this according to a modern facial-reconstruction….

And, according to the University of Leicester he would have sounded like this ……

He would have said the word “say” like “sah” and “pray” like “prah”. A bit like your English teacher would have pronounced The Canterbury Tales (if you did Chaucer at school that is).

He liked a drink…

He is believed to have drunk a bottle of wine a day, something that would leave us ordinary mortals pretty sloshed. Medieval wine was a luxury only the rich could afford and by all accounts was rather nice. He would have also drunk watered-down beer instead of water which in those days tended to be pretty polluted, even for nobles. As for food, Richard III enjoyed a high-status diet full of protein and essential minerals including fish and meats but research on his recovered skeleton showed that he also had a roundworm infection which would have made things a little uncomfortable in the bowel area.

He didn’t have great teeth either…

Research on his skeleton showed signs of tooth decay from a diet rich in carbohydrates and sugar. His teeth also gave indications that he suffered from stress-related bruxism, or teeth grinding. Through guilt about killing the two young boys in the Tower? Or the general stresses of being a King during the Wars of the Roses? Or both?

Was he English?

He was a Plantagenet. As the French-sounding name suggests, the Plantagenet dynasty originated across the channel, and they belonged to the Continent. Over the centuries, Plantagenet rulers counted among their territories lands in places such as Normandy, Aquitaine, Brittany, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Castile and Sicily. So he was really a European in the sense we understand.

You might be related to him…

Richard III was identified because his DNA matched a close descendant, Canadian woodworker Michael Ibsen, his seven times great-nephew. (Ibsen also designed the lead line coffin in which Richard will be buried). However you too may be related to him in some distant way. A book recently showed that 80 and 95 per cent of the living English-descended population of England shares some ancestry with the Plantagenet kings of the 14th century and before…

He wasn’t a hunchback…

Shakespeare portrayed him as a hunchbacked toad-like creature but the skeleton shows that this was not the case. Richard would have been about 5ft 8in (1.7m) tall without his scoliosis of the spine, about average for a medieval man. His scoliosis would have reduced his height to below 5 feet and he may have felt like a bit of a pint pot. Especially when he stood beside his 6ft 4in-tall brother Edward IV….

His reign was short too…

At just two years and two months, his tenure was the shortest of all the crowned monarchs since the Norman Conquest in 1066. Poor lamb.

Richard III: The Princes in the Tower airs on Channel 4 on Saturday March 21 at 9pm

Richard III: the Return of the King airs on Channel 4 on Sunday March 22 at 5.10pm

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Richard III: the Burial of the King airs on Channel 4 on Thursday March 26 at 10am