Medici Family Afflicted by Rickets

Exhumed skeletons of the family members of the Grand Dukes of Tuscany show distinctive signs of rickets, some from early birth.

Of the nine children who died between birth and age 5, six showed curved arm and leg bones. Since rickets can be avoided by exposure to sunshine and the production of vitamin D, one hypothesis is that their early food may have been supplemented with "pap" (soft bread and apples). Swaddling may also have reduced the amount of sunlight that could have reached their skin.

Eleonora of Toledo's skeleton showed signs of rickets in childhood. One skeleton, of Filippo de' Medici, showed rickets and hydrocephalus. (photo) Marie de' Medici's mother's skeleton showed congenital hip dislocation and severe scoliosis. (photo)