Embalmed head of France's King Henri IV found

Wed Dec 15, 2010 9:12am EST
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By Stefano Ambrogi

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - A team of scientists say they have positively identified an embalmed head, presumed lost in the chaos of the French Revolution, as that of King Henri IV of France who was assassinated in 1610.

The head was apparently lost after revolutionaries desecrated the graves of French kings in the royal basilica of Saint-Denis near Paris in 1793.

Few remains of those bodies have ever been found and positively identified since.

But a team of experts using advanced scientific techniques say they have conclusively identified the head, passed down over the centuries by private collectors, as that of the monarch.

The multi-disciplinary team, led by forensic pathologist Philippe Charlier, announced the discovery in the British Medical Journal.

Charlier said features consistent with those of the king's face were found including "a dark mushroom-like lesion" near the right nostril, a healed facial stab wound and a pierced right earlobe.

The king is known to have sported an earring, along with others from the Valois court.

Head hairs and remnants of a mustache and beard, colored red and white, on the mummified head fit with the known characteristics of the king's hair at the time of his death. Many features matched those in portraits of the king, the team said.   Continued...

<p>A two-way combo shows the mummified skull attributed to French King Henri IV in this handout photo released by the BMJ Group (British Medical Journal) December 15, 2010. REUTERS/Gabet/Belet/Galaxy/BMJ/Handout</p>