Pressures of power drove King Richard to drink

DRINK PROBLEM: King Richard III.

DRINK PROBLEM: King Richard III.

First published in News The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by

THE pressures of power drove King Richard III to drink, according to new evidence uncovered in a documentary about the medieval monarch.

Researchers who carried out tests on his skeleton after it was unearthed from a council car park in Leicester in 2012, were able to reveal details about his diet and even where he lived at different parts of his life.

The team, whose work was filmed for the Channel 4 documentary shown last night (Sunday) about the doomed king, also used a body double to prove Richard's curved spine would not have stopped him fighting in battle.

Analysis of his bones and teeth showed his drinking habits changed significantly around the time he became king in 1483 and that during the last three years of his life he consumed about a bottle of wine a day.

Closely associated with the city of York, his diet also changed at the same time and included exotic meat including swan, crane, heron and egret.

The study by the British Geological Survey, in association with researchers at the University of Leicester, is published in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

Dr Angela Lamb, isotope geochemist and lead author of the paper, said: "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."

The programme also found a body double for the king in Dominic Smee, a 27-year-old teacher from Tamworth in Staffordshire.

Mr Smee, whose spine has a 75 degree curve like Richard's, demonstrated that his stature would not have prevented him wielding weapons including medieval longswords, lances, halberds and axes.

He was also capable of wearing armour and riding a medieval warhorse; in fact, the medieval saddle, with its rigid construction and stiff back support, would have helped Richard to remain upright on horseback.

Programme makers recreated a cavalry charge with Mr Smee wearing a specially-made suit of armour weighing 30 kilogrammes.

Earlier this month it was announced Richard's body will be reburied at Leicester Cathedral.

A reinterment service will take place at the cathedral on March 26 following a week of events in Leicestershire to honour the king.

The king, who reigned from 1483, was killed at the Battle of Bosworth in August 1485.

:: Richard III: The New Evidence is shown on Channel 4 on Sunday, August 17 at 9pm.

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