Did Richard III hide his ‘deformity’?
Whilst historians reconsider the life and times of England’s last Plantagenet king whose remains were famously rediscovered under a car park in Leicester, Dr. Mary Ann Lund from the University of Leicester believes that, whilst he was not the hunchback of William Shakespeare’s imagination, Richard’s spinal condition – scoliosis – was something he felt the need to hide during his lifetime.
Writing in the journal ‘Medical Humanities’ she said: “It is highly likely that Richard took care to control his public image. The body of the king was part of the propaganda of power, and even when it was revealed in order to be anointed as part of his coronation ceremony it was simultaneously concealed from the congregation. Tailoring probably kept the signs of his scoliosis hidden to spectators outside the royal household of attendants, servants and medical staff who dressed, bathed and tended to the monarch’s body.”
If Richard’s condition was a state secret Dr. Lund believes he would have been given the best medical care that was available in the late medieval period: “The care he in all probability received for his scoliosis from his surgically trained physician was large in scale: traction and manual manipulation needed specially designed equipment, space and assistants.” Dr. Lund’s intriguing thesis brings another perspective to a monarch whose reign and character are undergoing a remarkable reevaluation.