Richard III Was A Heavy Drinker

Not only do we now know that Richard III did, indeed, have a twisted spine, but a study of his remains indicates that the last years of his life showed a marked increase in consumption of wine and exotics foods such as “swan, crane, heron and egret.”

The study appears in The Journal of Archaeological Science, and concludes:

The recent discovery of the remains of King Richard III, one of the most controversial characters in British history, provides an opportunity to use scientific methods to assess conflicting historical and literary descriptions of his life. Our data comprise isotope results from different parts of the skeleton in order to reconstruct a life history of his diet, exposure to pollution and geographical movements. Most significantly, we demonstrate a substantial shift in his bone isotope values towards the end of his life. As we are dealing with an individual with known provenance and with, in parts, a detailed documentation of his diet and location we can test and extend our interpretations of skeletal isotope analysis. The isotope changes evident between Richard’s femur and rib bones, when assessed against historical documentations, suggest a significant increase in feasting and wine consumption in his later years. This is the first example where the intake of wine has been suggested as having an impact on the oxygen isotope composition of an individual and thus has wider implications for isotope-based archaeology.

Heavy consumption of wine and beer was more common in urban environments where clean water might not always be available. The daily allotment for someone of the upper class might be about a liter a day. Much of the alcohol in the middle ages had lower alcohol content and came from second and maybe even third pressings. However, the first pressing, with the highest alcohol content, was reserved for the tables of the elite, such as Richard.