Tests show head of France's King Henri IV 'genuine'

Composite of artist's impression and skull of Henry IV (AP) Researchers have reconstructed the face of Henry IV, using the presumed skull

Scientists say they have identified an embalmed head as belonging to King Henri IV of France, who was assassinated in 1610 at the age of 57.

The head was lost after revolutionaries ransacked the royal chapel at Saint Denis, near Paris, in 1793.

A head, presumed to be that of Henri IV, has passed between private collectors since then.

A team of scientists used the latest forensic techniques to identify features seen in portraits of the king.

A lesion near his nose, a pierced ear and a healed facial wound - from a previous assassination attempt - were among the marks that identified the head.

The methods used to embalm the head also matched techniques in use at the time of his death, said the scientists in a report published by the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

'Worth a Mass'

It was not possible to use DNA evidence to identify the head because it was impossible to find a sample from it that could be guaranteed to be uncontaminated.

"The human head had a light brown colour, open mouth and partially closed eyes," said the scientists, led by forensic pathologist Philippe Charlier.

Image of Henri IV, circa 1600 Henri IV was one of France's most popular monarchs

"The preservation was excellent, with all soft tissues and internal organs well conserved."

King Henri IV was one of France's favourite monarchs.

He converted to Catholicism to end France's wars of religion, declaring "Paris is worth a Mass", but was later killed by a Catholic fundamentalist.

He built the Pont Neuf bridge and the Place des Vosges in Paris. Henri was the first of the Bourbon line of monarchs, which included his grandson Louis XIV, the Sun King.

His head will now be reinterred in the Basilica of Saint Denis after a national Mass and funeral next year.

More on This Story

More Science & Environment stories

RSS

Features & Analysis

  • Stained glass of man with swordFrance 1 England 0

    The most important battle you have probably never heard of


  • Golden retriever10 things

    Dogs get jealous, and nine more nuggets from the week's news


  • Pro-Israel demonstrators shout slogans while protesting in Berlin - 25 July 2014Holocaust guilt

    Gaza conflict leaves Germans confused over who to support


  • The emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-SabahFreedoms fear

    Growing concern for rights as Kuwait revokes citizenships


Elsewhere on the BBC

  • CastleRoyal real estate

    No longer reserved for kings and queens, some find living in a castle simply divine

Programmes

  • Leader of Hamas Khaled MeshaalHARDtalk Watch

    BBC exclusive: Hamas leader on the eagerness to end bloodshed in Gaza

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.