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The intestinal parasites of King Richard III
By Piers D Mitchell, Hui-Yuan Yeh, Jo Appleby and Richard Buckley
The Lancet – published online (2013)
Introduction: Richard III ruled England from 1483—85 AD, and he died at the battle of Bosworth Field near Leicester. He is one of England’s most well known medieval kings because of his portrayal as a villain in Shakespeare’s play Richard III, in part a consequence of his usurping the throne and the perception of his spinal deformity. His body was buried in the church of the friars minor (Grey Friars) in Leicester. In September, 2012, Richard’s remains were excavated and sediment samples were taken from the sacral area of his pelvis, and control samples from his skull and the soil outside the grave cut. Analysis was done with disaggregation with trisodium phosphate, microsieving with 300, 160, and 20 μm diameter mesh, and then light microscopy.2 The results showed the presence of multiple roundworm eggs (Ascaris lumbricoides) in the sacral sample, where the intestines would have been during life. The eggs were decorticated and dimensions ranged from 55·1—69·8 μm in length to 40·9—48·2 μm in breadth. The control sample from the skull was negative for parasite eggs, and the control sample from outside the grave cut showed only scanty environmental soil contamination with parasite eggs.