Wednesday, April 24, 2013

King Richard III
In February of this year the discovery of the body of King Richard III was confirmed. The skeleton (minus the feet) was found beneath an English car park. DNA tests using DNA from three direct descendants convinced British scientists beyond reasonable doubt that the skeleton was that of King Richard who was killed at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485.

Examination of the skeleton revealed that Richard met a violent death. Evidence of ten wounds was discovered, most likely inflicted at or around the time of death. His body was also abused after death.

Richard wasn’t a hunchback as tradition might have us believe. Instead the skeleton revealed that the King suffered from severe scoliosis, which probably developed when he was an adolescent. Scoliosis is painful, and the severity of King Richard’s affliction meant he was in pain all the time.

In Richard’s day, scoliosis was thought to be caused by an imbalance of the body’s humors. (See this link for an explanation of humors.) Treatments used to restore the humors included eating specific foods, bleeding, emetics to cause vomiting, as well as hot plaster and cupping.

Other treatments for scoliosis were just as archaic, as well as painful. One was traction, which used the same principle as the “rack” that was used as an implement of torture. Rope was tied under a patient’s armpits and around his legs, then the ropes were pulled at either end to stretch the spine.

Other treatments might have involved messages in Turkish baths and herbal applications. Long term care might have included the patient wearing a long piece of wood or metal to straighten their spine.

The discovery of his skeleton revealed that King Richard III suffered pain in life and died a horrific death. We know about his physical stature. But who was he, really? Some paint him as a villain who stole the crown and murdered his young nephews. He was one of Shakespeare’s blackest villains. Others say he might have done those things, but overall he was a good, conscientious guy. But since much of Richard's life is buried in time, we will never know truth.


  1. Wow, I had no idea! It is so interesting to learn things from history like this. Thank you for sharing.

    I have to say that the picture makes me cringe! I have scoliosis and wore a big metal back brace for 2 years in high school to keep my back from looking like that! So thankful for modern medicine...would have to have to endure the rack! lol

  2. This was a very fascinating read, thanks for sharing. My brother has been receiving treatment for scoliosis and I have been doing some research on what it really is. He has to wear a back brace pretty much all of the time, which looks really uncomfortable.


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