The Heart of 'Richard the Lionheart' Analysed

LCGC Europe eNews

LCGC Europe eNews-03-28-2013, Volume 0, Issue 0

The heart of Richard I ? King of England from 1189?1199 and nicknamed ?Richard the Lionheart? ? has been analysed by gas chromatography?mass spectrometry (GC?MS), combined with an array of other bioanalytical techniques.

The heart of Richard I — King of England from 1189–1199 and nicknamed “Richard the Lionheart” — has been analysed by gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC–MS), combined with an array of other bioanalytical techniques. The team of scientists, led by forensic scientist Dr Philippe Charlier, published their findings in the journal Scientific Reports.1

The heart of Richard I was first found in the 19th century, contained within a small lead box with the inscription “Here is the heart of Richard, King of England”. This is somewhat inaccurate; in reality what remained within the lead box was a white‑brown powder.

The team used an array of bioanalytical approaches to show that the heart had been embalmed and mummified. The breakdown of the tissue is likely to be because of an incomplete seal on the iron box.1

GC–MS analysis of the powder revealed the presence of triterpenoid compounds including α- and ß-boswellic acids characteristic of frankincense. In addition, GC–MS analysis detected phenolic derivative compounds indicating the presence of creosote, noted for its antiseptic and preservative properties. Other biomedical techniques suggested the use of daisy, mint, mercury and lime.

The results indicate that the aim was to preserve the tissues, with materials inspired by biblical texts, according to the authors. The findings are important as they provide insight into the post-mortem processes used at that time.


Reference

1. P. Charlier et al, Scientific Reports, DOI: 10.1038/srep01296 (2013).