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Richard III’s Rib Shows He Loved a Good Roast Egret

Scientists analyzing King Richard III’s bones say he had a steady diet of wild birds and fish.

Portrait of Richard III from the National Gallery in London; artist unknown. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Richard III of England ate well as king, we now know. How well?

The historical record shows that his coronation banquet included such luxury items as cygnet, crane, heron and egret, and it seems that he was able to keep the party going, since his remains suggest an increased consumption of freshwater fish and wild fowl, available only to the wealthy. Nor did he stint on wine, judging by the chemical record.

This news comes from boffins at the British Geological Survey and the University of Leicester, who got hold of the king’s rib, a femur and two teeth.  They couldn’t see exactly what the king ate, but they did find “a significant shift in the nitrogen, but not carbon isotope values” during the last few years of the king’s life. That suggests an increase in luxury foods like game birds and fresh fish. A rise in oxygen isotope values also indicates a late rise in wine consumption.

They know all this because the femur shows long-term averages while ribs “remodel faster” and so show more about the last few years of Richard’s life. 

All that good chow was good news for the king, of course. The bad news was that he only got to enjoy it for 26 months as king before he was hacked to death at Bosworth Field. And then buried under a parking lot.

Multi-isotope analysis demonstrates significant lifestyle changes in King Richard III »

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