It is not just King Richard III who has had numerous scientific tests done on his mortal remains. Tests have also recently taken place on the jawbone of Louis IX of France who died in 1270 while on Crusade in Tunisia. Louis is also known as ‘The Saint’ and was the husband of Margaret of Provence, sister to Eleanor of Provence, the wife of King Henry III of England. His mother was Blanche of Castille, daughter of Eleanor of England (daughter of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine) and Alfonso VIII of Castille, so he has many ties by marriage and by blood to the royalty of medieval England. In his time, he was regarded as an ideal Christian prince.

Louis was a crusader King, participating in two Crusades, the Seventh and the Eighth. In the Seventh, he was away from France for six years and found himself losing his army at the Battle of Al Mansurah, where he was also captured by the Egyptians.He remained their captive for some time while a huge ransom was raised. In the Eighth Crusade, he and his three sons took the Cross then headed to Tunisia, where they were to be joined by young Edward of England, the future Edward I. Unfortunately for Louis, dysentery swept through the forces amassed in Tunis, and he was one of its victims, dying on August 25, 1270. His body was then boiled to clean it of flesh and his bones returned to France where they were interred at St- Denis, a royal mausoleum. His entrails, carefully removed before the body was boiled, had been sent to various places as relics. Seven years later, he was canonised, the only French king who has been declared a saint. A hair shirt and a scourge with which he beat himself still exist today.

In 2017, a relic of King Louis was taken from Notre Dame–a worn jawbone. Osteologists agreed it would have come from a man in his 50’s at death (Louis was 56), and they also compared it with sculptures of the king’s face which were thought to have been made in his actual image. It matched up. Lastly, it was carbon dated–and here, as in the carbon dates taken on Richard III’s skeleton, at first the date seemed too early. However, the scientists continued their tests on tooth isotopes and found that Louis has consumed a diet that consisted almost solely of fish. Exactly as in Richard’s case, the high fish diet had slightly skewed the carbon dates. This happens because fish have less radioactive carbon in their make-up than land animals do. Adjusted for the heavy fish diet, the date on the bones now came out as the correct one.

That was not all the scientists found looking at Louis’ teeth. The King was suffering from severe scurvy, which comes from a lack of Vitamin C. This would have caused him to feel weak and tired and have sore arms and legs. His gums would have bled and his teeth may have loosened; there may also have been hair loss. While scurvy may not have killed him, it certainly did not help his chances when he finally became sick with his final illness at Tunis.

Scientists are now hoping to obtain some of his preserved entrails and examine them for parasites or signs of the dysentery said to have killed him.




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