Richard III ate like a king before biting the dust

Well-known royal’s brief reign included a sudden shift to fancy food and drink

ROYAL FOODIE  The discovery of King Richard III’s bones, including the skull shown here, enabled scientists to determine that his diet changed dramatically around the time he ascended to the throne.

© Univ. of Leicester

England’s infamous King Richard III hit the banquet circuit during the years leading up to his violent 1485 death, suggests a new analysis of his recently recovered remains.

Details of Richard’s killing and medical problems have emerged since his skeleton was excavated in 2012 beneath a British church (SN: 3/9/13, p. 14). Because different bones regrow tissue at different rates, studying the chemical makeup of key bones can reveal what types of food Richard ate at various stages of life.

Chemical comparisons of two teeth, a rib and an upper leg indicate that, as king, Richard ate luxury foods such as game birds and freshwater fish that he washed down with wine, say geochemist Angela Lamb of the British Geological Survey in Keyworth and colleagues. Before taking the throne in 1483, Richard consumed humbler items such as bread, barley, ale and water, the scientists propose August 16 in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

Lamb and her team say they aren’t surprised that Richard’s bones denote a turn to wildfowl and wine. Richard traveled through his kingdom after his coronation, according to historical accounts, and was probably treated to elaborate feasts. His brutal demise in the Battle of Bosworth soon followed.

Bruce Bower

Bruce Bower has written about the behavioral sciences for Science News since 1984. He writes about psychology, anthropology, archaeology and mental health issues.

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