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Richard I’s Mummified Heart Analysed By Forensic Scientists

The BBC reports today that the heart of Richard I, so called ‘Richard the Lionheart’ has been analysed by forensic scientists. Richard the Lionheart, died in 1199 his heart was embalmed and buried separately from the rest of his body. The condition of the heart was said to be too bad to establish the cause of death.

The forensic scientists say that although they can’t establish the cause of death precisely, they were able to rule out that he was killed by a poisoned arrow, which was a belief held by some.

The heart was buried in a small lead box, which was discovered in 1838 during an excavation. The analysis also revealed much more about the techniques that were used to preserve his heart – providing an insight into medieval religious rituals. Dr Charlier said: “The spices and vegetables used for the embalming process were directly inspired by the ones used for the embalming of Christ.”

A representative for the University of York said, “Medieval kings were thought to represent the divine on Earth – they were set apart form other lay people and regarded as special and different. So that treatment of the heart strikes me as being absolutely credible.”

The heart, wrapped in linen, also carried traces of myrtle, daisy, mint and possibly lime. Scientists think these would have been used for their smell, to give the King an “odour of sanctity”, which would be “similar to Christ”. They also found mercury, which would have been used stop the heart from decomposing.

This discovery and analysis comes shortly after the discovery of Richard III’s corpse in a Leicester car park and now, his senior namesake, Richard I is having his remains examined.

Richard I’s statue stands outside the Houses of Parliament in Westminster.

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