England's King Richard III had worms, researchers sifting soil in his grave say

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 September, 2013, 4:44am


"Thy broken faith hath made a prey for worms," evil Richard III is told by an accuser in Shakespeare's drama.

The outburst turns out to be true in more ways than the playwright could ever have imagined.

Scientists have discovered that the hunchback king was infected with intestinal parasites up to 35cm long, probably as a result of poor mediaeval hygiene.

The remains of Richard III, who ruled from 1483-1485, were founded beneath a car park last year in the central English city of Leicester.

Since then, forensic scientists have been poring over the extraordinary find, seeking further details of the life and times of this controversial monarch.

Sifting through the sediment, University of Cambridge researchers say they have found "multiple" microscopic eggs of a parasite in the lower region of the spine, where the royal innards would have been in life.

"These results show that Richard was infected with roundworm in his intestines," they reported on Wednesday in The Lancet.

"Roundworm is spread by the contamination of food by dirty hands or use of faeces as a crop fertiliser."

The roundworm is common in parts of Africa and Latin America today.

Vilified in Shakespeare's play - unfairly say some as a murderous hunchback, Richard was killed at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.