Your RDA of Irony

Dismembrance of Things Past

400-year-old head is Henri IV: scientists

An embalmed head that has passed between private collectors for more than 200 years is that of King Henri IV of France, British scientists have confirmed.

The scientists used a variety of techniques, including forensic and genetic tests, to identify the head, according to a report published Wednesday in the British Medical Journal.

The head was long believed to have belonged to Henri IV, who was assassinated in 1610 at the age of 57.

It is said to have gone missing in 1793, when revolutionaries raided French kings’ graves at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint-Denis, outside Paris.

Scientists said the head had been preserved excellently, “with all soft tissues and internal organs well conserved.”

They compared marks on the head with features seen in portraits of the king, such as a lesion above his right nostril, a piercing in his right earlobe and a stab wound in the bone above his upper lip.

Hair remnants matched the length and colour of hair Henri was known to have had at the time of his death.

Finally, scientists copied the skull digitally and found the reconstruction to be “fully consistent with all known representations of Henri IV and the plaster mould of his face made just after his death, which is conserved in the Sainte-Genevieve Library, Paris,” the report said.

His head will now be re-interred in the Basilica of Saint Denis after a national Mass and funeral next year, the BBC reported.

Reflecting on the late King’s very flexible religious principles, the Mass will be followed by a Protestant ceremony, followed by a Mass, followed by a Protestant ceremony, followed by a Mass.  President Sarkozy will also be sitting shiva.

For more details on the remarkable Henri IV–in his pre-mortem state:

  1. Joan Stewart Smith says:

    I wonder where those private collectors have been storing the head for all these years. In ice? Sorry. This is what I’m thinking.

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