Richard III Was No Hunchback

Spine problem would not have been obvious
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 30, 2014 2:40 AM CDT
Richard III Was No Hunchback
The earliest surviving portrait of Richard III.   (AP Photo/ University of Leicester)

Richard III wasn't the "deformed," "unfinished," "rudely stamp'd," "hunchbacked" figure Shakespeare depicted him as, researchers say. The 15th-century king's body was found under a parking lot in England a couple of years ago, and after using scans to create a model of what they call "one of history's most famous spinal columns," researchers determined that the king suffered from scoliosis—a condition that would have enough curvature of the spine to make his right shoulder slightly higher than his left, but not enough to cause a "major physical deformity," NPR reports.

The king would have able to hold his head and neck straight and the condition could easily "have been disguised by custom-made armor and by having a good tailor," according to researchers, who say there is no evidence that the king suffered from a limp, and the condition would not have impaired his prowess on the battlefield. "History tells us that Richard III was a great warrior," the chairman of the Richard III society tells the BBC. "Clearly, he was little inconvenienced by his spinal problem," he says, but "accounts of his appearance, written when he was alive, tell that he was 'of person and bodily shape comely enough.'" (Scoliosis wasn't the king's only health problem—an earlier study found that he had a bad case of roundworms.)

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