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Richard III: Not The Hunchback We Thought He Was?

King Richard III, seen here portrayed by actor Paul Daneman in 1962, has often been described as a hunchback. A new study of his skeleton seeks to set the record straight about the monarch's condition. i i

King Richard III, seen here portrayed by actor Paul Daneman in 1962, has often been described as a hunchback. A new study of his skeleton seeks to set the record straight about the monarch's condition. John Franks/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption John Franks/Getty Images
King Richard III, seen here portrayed by actor Paul Daneman in 1962, has often been described as a hunchback. A new study of his skeleton seeks to set the record straight about the monarch's condition.

King Richard III, seen here portrayed by actor Paul Daneman in 1962, has often been described as a hunchback. A new study of his skeleton seeks to set the record straight about the monarch's condition.

John Franks/Getty Images

The physical condition of England's King Richard III has been a subject of debate for centuries. Now scientists say 3-D skeletal modeling shows the monarch who lived 500 years ago had a common form of scoliosis and that he's been a victim of spin on a historic scale.

The new findings cast a different light on the monarch Shakespeare described as a "poisonous bunch-backed toad." Killed in the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, the Richard's remains were verified by DNA tests last year after they were found under a parking lot in Leicester, England.

Researchers wrote about "one of history's most famous spinal columns" in The Lancet Friday, saying their 3-D visualization "reveals how the king's spine had a curve to the right, but also a degree of twisting, resulting in a 'spiral' shape." They say Richard had a "well-balanced curve" that might not have been plainly visible.

The study of Richard's skeleton also found no sign that he limped or had a withered arm, ailments that have also been assigned to him.

From London, NPR's Larry Miller reports for our Newscast unit:

"King Richard's condition was scoliosis, where the spine curves to the side. The analysis suggests only a slight effect on his appearance and his movement would not have been limited.

"Piers Mitchell of the University of Cambridge co-authored the report. He told the Lancet medical journal Richard was a victim — but of political spin:

" 'Richard would've had a much better function and a much better life than people may have anticipated merely relying on written sources from after Richard's death written by the Tudors rather than the Plantagenets, who had a significant reason to try and portray Richard III as a deformed monster.'

Richard was the last monarch of England's Plantagenet dynasty. Last week, officials announced a plan to rebury his remains in Leicester.

The research team that has been working with Richard's remains has posted a video about their work:

YouTube

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