Richard III 'not a hunchback' say scientists after reconstruction of King's spine

A reconstruction of what Richard III may have looked like. Credit: PA

Richard III was not the "bunch-backed toad" described by Shakespeare and was hardly affected by his famous deformity, a study has shown.

Scientists who carried out scans of the king's kinked spine found it had a "well balanced curve" that could have been concealed under clothes or armour.

Unlike the hunchback depictions seen on stage and screen, his head and neck would have been straight, not tilted to one side, and there was also no evidence that he had a limp.

The findings are supported by accounts written when Richard III was alive describing him as being "comely enough" and even "handsome".

The remains of King Richard III, which were discovered under a city car park and were found in a hastily dug, untidy grave. Credit: University of Leicester

Scientists carried out a 3D reconstruction of the king's spine which showed 65 to 85 degrees of "scoliosis", or sideways bending, to the right. It was also twisted into a "spiral" shape.

But despite having one shoulder slightly higher than the other and a short trunk in comparison with his arms and legs, the defects would not have handicapped him too much.

Dr Phil Stone, chairman of the Richard III Society, said:

A skeleton found beneath a Leicester car park was confirmed as being that of the last Plantagenet King of England last year.

For the new study, published in The Lancet medical journal, researchers conducted a detailed analysis of the skeleton's spinal column.

Information from computed tomography (CT) X-ray scans and a 3D printer were used to create a plastic replica of the spine, which was photographed from 19 different directions.