Leicester, UK - Richard III and Scoliosis



Leicester, UK - Richard III and Scoliosis

Catalog Entry

Richard III was the king of England from 1483 until he passed away in 1485. Although his reign was short, he was one of the most historic kings. King richard had been known for many things. Something he was known for was all the murders that he had committed. I know when being a king, especially in that era having people murdered by you was not that out of the ordinary, but he was responsible for a bigger murder than that. He was at fault for the murders of his two nephews Edward and Richard.

Richard III’s family was known as the “House of York”. During his reign he had participated in a battle amongst the Lancastrians for control over the country. This war was known as the War of the Roses. During this bloody battle Richard lost his father, uncle and one of his brothers. Shortly after Richards brother Edward IV then took over as king. Edward IV had passed and the title of king were passed onto his son who at the time was only 12 years old. Richard was not happy that this was the outcome. His idea was to take custody of his nephew and so that is what he did. After that he imprisoned him in the Tower of London until the young king passed away.

August of 2012 is when the search for Richards body had started. This looking for Richard project was started and led by University of Leicester archaeological services. They found a skeleton in which had the spine of a “C”. The next step was to take a DNA test from this skeleton and compare it to Richard III’s sister, Anne of York. This is when they found that the DNA matched. After that, out of respect they had a proper reburial for him.

King Richard III was known as the hunch-backed monarch according to William Shakespear, he had a severe case of scoliosis. He had a hunch-back and a withered arm, but historical painted pictures of Richard showed no sign of scoliosis. Scoliosis is an abnormal curvature of the spine somewhat like an “S” or “C”, which affects two to three percent of people in the world. The shape of a spine should be curved at the top of the shoulders and curved at the lower back.

The American Association of Neurological Surgeons concluded that “eighty percent of scoliosis cases have no identifiable cause” (NSF). Many people live life without scoliosis but if they do adapt it somehow it can start within the first five to seven years of someones life. Although there is no pinpointed cause, a few examples would be a birth defect, neurological abnormalities, and genetic conditions or even caused by everyday events. If it is caught early enough there could be a fix to it so it won't have a future impact on the person's health.

Scoliosis is broken down into categories, largest being idiopathic scoliosis which is the most common. Idiopathic meaning there is no certain cause that relates to the curvature of the spine. Congenital scoliosis is when the spine has a defect at birth and neuromuscular scoliosis which develops over time because of a muscular disease. King Richard was presumed to have idiopathic scoliosis after discovering his skeleton.

Scoliosis can cause back pain and lead to even worse problems, including bulging and/or herniated discs. A bulging disc is a common spine injury where the soft center of the spinal disc tend to slip or leak through a crack in the bone of the spine. Depending on where this is happening in the back it can affect other limbs of the body. If it is in the lower back, your hips or legs are more bound to be affected. But if the discs are shifted up higher than a possibly or shoulder, neck or arm pains are very common.

If the scoliosis is bad it will force the rib cage to rest on your lungs or even heart. That without a doubt will cause a breathing issue for someone. If it is irritating your heart that will also affect the way you heart pumps. These are some serious issues that could play an important role in someone's health.

Many doctors say that yoga can help with scoliosis to stretch out the spine, although there are more severe cases of scoliosis in which a brace is needed. Back in the fourteen hundreds there wasn’t anything to help people with scoliosis. Nowadays scoliosis is first treated with physical therapy. Depending on if the persons plates or discs are shifted this can determine if the therapy will help or even hurt them more. The next step would be to try out a chiropractor. Many people who are affected by scoliosis adapt other back issues so it is rare that a simple treatment will help them all around.

There has been a case before a young girl who had scoliosis and did not know. She was involved in many sports growing up which led her to have two bulging discs in her lower back that were resting on the nerves to her legs. A situation like this can affect someone's stability to stand and even walk. She was working out one day and did a simple squat and lost all feeling in her body and ended up being hospitalized. In this case she was not able to get a brace because the scoliosis is the only thing that keeps her discs in place which is keeping her standing and able to be mobile.

By having this deformity it may be a physical impairment but it can also eventually cause you many more issues even mentally. Over time this will cause stress on you body which may start to actually drive a person crazy. This can lead to stress on yourself and your emotions. If that is the case, you may get so overwhelmed you can give yourself a self inflicted heart attack. Scoliosis itself is not a life threatening situation, but if it goes untreated it may actually put this much stress on someone that it can lead to a life threatening situation.


Pappas, Stephanie. “How Twisted Was King Richard III's Spine? New Models Reveal His Condition.” Live Science, www.livescience.com/45974-model-twisted-richard-iii-spine.html.

“Richard III.” ​Biography, 15 May 2019, ​www.biography.com/royalty/richard-iii​.

“Scoliosis.” ​Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 22 June 2019, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/scoliosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20350716​.

Artifact Owner

King Richard III Visitor Centre

Catalog Entry Author(s)

Nystasia Rowe, Student, Fitchburg State University


Kisha G. Tracy



“Leicester, UK - Richard III and Scoliosis,” Cultural Heritage through Image, accessed January 27, 2020, https://culturalheritagethroughimage.omeka.net/items/show/128.

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