King Richard III’s Plastic Head

The Richard III Visitor Centre has given Richard yet another new face. An updated version of the reconstructed head of King Richard III has been unveiled. The press release states that “The results of DNA testing carried out by Dr Turi King of University of Leicester in early 2014 showed that King Richard’s hair was likely to have been blond, at least in childhood, and that he would have blue eyes. As a result of these findings, the reconstruction has now been updated.”

Here’s your “new” Richard. How do you like him?


The report Identification of the remains of King Richard III released in December stated, among other things, that there was a 77% probability of Richard having blond hair and a 96% probability of having blue eyes. The eyes are no surprise, the closest to contemporary portraits we have show him with blue eyes. Following on from this statement the report noted that “current hair colour DNA predictions resemble childhood hair colour and it is important to note that in certain blond individuals, hair colour can darken during adolescence.”

So it is not certain that Richard was blonde as an adult. So why the change to the facial reconstruction? It’s all about the emerging belief that imprecise branches of scientific testing are suddenly more important than actual historical record. The reconstruction itself is problematic, there is no way to get a real likeness from centuries-old skeletal remains. They can determine little else than possible facial shape.


The eye and hair colour are not the only change. Richard’s eyebrows have had a severe trimming and, while it may be the lighting, his complexion looks distinctly fairer. These changes have been made to suit the alleged new scientific evidence, yet neither his eyebrows nor his complexion were discussed in the recent report. So how could these two factors be based on science? The fact is they are not. They are based on perception and influence. Because it is now being touted Richard was blond his eyebrows and complexion are more delicate to suit the theory, when it was previously influenced by his surviving portraits.

What next? A change to Richard III’s face based on the miraculous discovery that he consumed a lot of fish? Perhaps they’ll give the plastic head teeth next.

The plastic head of Richard III is a polymer impression created with a 3D printer, based only on skeletal remains, which cannot create a precise likeness. Is it really his face? I’ll stick to portraits based on earlier originals.