On 16 August 2014, a new peer-reviewed article was published by the Journal of Archaeological Science detailing the information gathered by multi-isotope analysis of the remains of Richard III. This type of research reveals the diet and geographical movements of the analysed person. The results were also part of the new documentary, which was screened in the UK on 17 August, but as I have not been able to watch the programme, and all I have is hearsay, I won’t comment on it. Fortunately the research article is available without geographically restrictions.
The research shows that he was born and spent his early childhood in Northamptonshire. We know that he was born in Fotheringhay in Northamptonshire. He then moved to a more westerly area and we know that he spent time in Ludlow in the Welsh Marches. Later he returned to eastern England, where he spent the majority of his later life. In short, the scientific evidence supports and confirms what had been pieced together from historical records about Richard’s geographical movements.
Much more interesting was what the analysis revealed about Richard’s diet. It confirmed an aristocratic lifestyle with a diet high in meat and fish (some of which were from the sea). However, at the age of approx. five it shows that for a while his diet concentrated more on grains, which as the dates show coincides with the time he spent at Ludlow.
During the last years of his life, ie. when he was king, his diet became even more privileged with a higher proportion of terrestrial foods (freshwater fish and wild fowl). These, like game, were very expensive and only available to the very rich.
The analysis also shows that the composition what he drank changed during his later years, more wine than beer. We have to remember that wine and beer were much more commonly drunk during that period than today. Obviously coffee and the commercially manufactured cool drinks of today were not yet available to people living then and the state of their drinking water made other alternatives a healthier option.
The scientists conclude that it is likely that these changes reflect the records we have of Richard’s lavish coronation feast (but they tell us for the first time what Richard actually ate) and that it is likely that he was wined and dined during his royal progress.
It seems that Richard would have enjoyed the wines and beers which have been named after him, and presumably would not have said No to a slice of “his” cheese either.
More on the research can be found in the article from the Journal of Archaeological Science and on Mike Pitts’ blog, which concentrates on the evidence, unlike some more sensationalist interpretations in the media.