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Richard III’s Diet

August 25, 2014

Isotope analysis is revealing what English King Richard III ate and drank.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

A pictorial history of England 1854

The coronation of King Richard III. His coronation is believed to have included sumptuous banquets with a great variety of expensive game. (A Pictorial History of England, 1854)

A diet fit for a king. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Researchers studying the remains of Richard III have identified what the 15th century English monarch ate and drank across his lifetime. Isotope geochemist Angela Lamb of the British Geological Survey says ratios of chemical variants in teeth and bone can reveal what a person was consuming. She says as his power grew, so did the king’s sumptuous banquets, which included beef, pork, venison, freshwater and marine fish, and all manner of wildfowl, from peacocks to swans.

LAMB:

They were a real marking of the upper echelons of society if you were eating those kinds of birds. And they were difficult to catch, expensive, sort of preserved for the ultra rich.

HIRSHON:

What’s more, Richard’s oxygen ratios were unusual for someone living in the east of England.

LAMB:

The oxygen could be explained by an increase in him drinking wine, it was a real status symbol.

HIRSHON:

I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.