Using scans of a skull believed to belong to Henri IV, a team of scientists has reconstructed the face of the revered 16th-century monarch , reported the Telegraph.
The reconstruction comes two years after Philippe Charlier, a leading French pathologist, identified an embalmed head he found in the attic of a retired tax inspector as that of the beloved king known as “Good King Henri IV” — or the “Green Gallant,” for his way with ladies.
The image of the smiling, mustachioed Henri IV, whose numerous achievements include the Edict of Nantes in 1598 and a promise to all French workers of “a chicken in the pot every Sunday,” will be publicly presented for the first time at Paris’ National Archive.
The unveiling comes less than two weeks after the reconstruction of another monarch’s face across the Channel in Britain, where scientists confirmed the discovery of the remains of King Richard III beneath a Leicester car park.
Unlike the skeleton of the English King, however, the veracity of King Henri’s skull is still a matter of fierce debate in France. In 1793, during the tumult of the French Revolution, anti-monarchists exhumed his body from the royal basilica in Saint-Denis outside Paris and cut off his head. However, a mysterious admirer reportedly managed to make off with Henri’s embalmed skull, and over the centuries it was passed from collector to collector.
Charlier said the features on thewell-preserved skull were still distinguishable, reportedReuters, and were consistent with those of Henri IV: A gash near the nose, a beauty spot and a pierced right earlobe.
A knife mark on the skull also would have matched the stab wound inflicted by François Ravaillac, a Catholic fanatic who assassinated the king in 1610, Charlier told Reuters.
But royal descendants dispute Charlier’s claim, which he made in a book co-authored with journalist Stéphane Gabet, titled Henri IV: The Mystery of a Headless King. Critics say that royal embalmers would have removed the brain — shrunken to the size of a walnut but still present inCharlier’s skull — if the head had truly belonged to a king, noted the Guardian.
According to the Guardian, Henri d’Orléans, Count of Paris and Duke of France, told French journalists that the affair seems “closer to a novel than scientific or historic truth.”
“What are we supposed to see from this supposed facial reconstitution – that he had a Bourbon nose?”d’Orléans reportedly said.
(More: Top Ten Famous Stolen Body Parts)