10 False History 'Facts' Everyone Knows

Richard III Was an Evil Hunchback
Philippa Langley, originator of the Looking for Richard project, poses next to a facial reconstruction of King Richard III at a London news conference. The bones of the last English monarch to die in battle were found under a car park in 2012. © ANDREW WINNING/Reuters/Corbis

In William Shakespeare's classic play "Richard III," the bard conjured up one of the juiciest villains this side of the Joker. Not only was Shakespeare's Richard III a murderous usurper of the English throne — he smothered his two young nephews next in line for succession — but he was also a hunchback.

Deformed, unfinish'd, sent before my time
Into this breathing world, scarce half made up,
And that so lamely and unfashionable
That dogs bark at me as I halt by them; (Richard III, Act I, Scene I)

Shakespeare's fictional take on the real-life king was borrowed heavily from quasi-historical accounts written by the Tudors, the rival dynasty that stole back the throne and killed off Richard III in 1485 at the Battle of Bosworth [source: Richard III Society]. During his brief 26 months on the throne, Richard III proved a capable and just leader, but his subjects never really got over the whole "double child homicide" thing and his reputation was sealed as a colossal jerk [source: Jones].

But was he really a hunchback? After years of searching for Richard III's lost remains near the historical site of the Battle of Bosworth, his fully intact skeleton was miraculously discovered under a parking lot in 2012 [source: Richard III Society]. Richard III's spine was unmistakably curved, but further testing revealed that the cause was a bad case of scoliosis, rather than kyphosis, the medical term for having a hunchback [source: University of Leicester].