Richard the Lionheart reveals reverential secret

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HE was one of England’s greatest monarchs – a Crusader King whose tales of bravery and chivalry have echoed down the centuries since his death.

And new research on the dusty fragments of the once-embalmed heart of Richard the Lionheart has shown that his remains were treated with almost holy reverence following his death during the siege of a French castle in April, 1199. The heart of the legendary king was preserved with frankincense, mercury, mint and other sweet-smelling plants – directly inspired by Biblical texts.

The detailed analysis of the fragmentary remains has also ruled out historical claims that Richard was killed by a poisoned arrow.

The groundbreaking research was led by Dr Philippe Charlier, a forensic scientist from Raymond Poincare University Hospital in France. He and his team began their research last year after being granted unprecedented access to the fragments of King Richard’s heart which had been embalmed and buried in the cathedral of Notre Dame in Rouen.

The small lead box, containing the heart, was only discovered during an excavation of the cathedral in 1838. Dr Chevalier said: “We found things that we didn’t expect. The frankincense is something we have never seen until now. It is a substance whose use comes from divine inspiration.