The case may have been closed in 2010, when researchers announced that the mummified skull found in the attic of a retired collector belonged to French King Henri IV. However, the story doesn't end there.
Facials hairs, a large beauty spot, a broken nose, a knife gash to the upper lip from an assassination attempt, all point to the skull being his. "Rubbish," cry critics, who insist that the book owes more to fiction than fact and point to a lack of scientific proof and the fact that the brain – albeit shrunken to the size of a walnut – was still present, when it would have been removed by royal embalmers.
Book co-authors Stéphane Gabet and Philippe Charlier, who were deeply involved in skull's recovery and analysis in 2010, used their first-hand knowledge to write the narrative that describes the journey from Henri IV's death and burial to the months of scientific testing that led researchers to finally identify the recovered skull as that of the French monarch. As a journalist, Gabet helped track down the skull in the attic of 84-year-old Jacques Bellanger, while Charlier, a forensic medical examiner, led the research team that analyzed the mummified head.
Henri d'Orléans, count of Paris and duke of France, may be the most outspoken critic of Gabet's and Charlier's book.
"This matter seems closer to a novel than a scientific or historic truth," d'Orléans told French-language publication Le Figaro this week. "What bothers me, is that it's always the same man, [Prof. Philippe Charlier], who brings up far-fetched evidence, if I may say, like a conjurer with his wand."
The criticisms follow the recent unveiling of the French monarch's face, which was reconstructed by 3D imaging that used scans of the skull. The face of King Richard III, whose skeleton was uncovered in a parking lot in Leicester, England earlier this month, was also reconstructed by a similar process.