Long viewed as a hunchbacked villain, King Richard III may be in for a rewritten history. DNA tests prove that the skeleton found beneath an English car park just a few months ago belongs to the oft-vilified king. But did he really suffer from kyphosis (“hunchback” syndrome)?
Kyphosis is a “curving of the spine that causes a bowing or rounding of the back, which leads to a hunchback or slouching posture.” However, as we now know King Richard III suffered not from kyphosis, but rather from scoliosis. Understandably, the two conditions may seem similar through the eyes of Shakespeare, perhaps distorted for dramatic effect, who initiated the famous depiction of the king as a hunchback “rudely stamp’d”, and “deformed, unfinish’d” in his appropriately titled play, Richard III.
Scientists utilized a Mitochondrial DNA test to determine lineage (more info can be found here), but as University of Leicester archaeologist Richard Taylor said in a recent press conference, “We believe the individual would have had severe scoliosis, a form of spinal curvature.” He added, “The skeleton does not have kyphosis – a different form of spinal curvature – and was not a hunchback.”
The King’s spine had been distressed in ways consistent with scoliosis rather than kyphosis; the main difference being that the former causes a lateral curvature of the spine while the latter causes a forward curvature.
Photo: REUTERS/University of Leicester/Handout