A team of scientists has identified the head of French King, Henri IV, from the skeletons of monarchs lying in mass graves in the Royal Basilica of Saint-Denis in Paris.

Dr. Philippe Charlier led the scientific breakthrough, which involved other scientists from different fields of expertise including anthropology, pathology, forensic medicine and genetic studies.

Henri IV was known as the “green gallant” because of his attractiveness to women or “good King Henry” because of his popularity amongst his people.

But despite his popularity, Henri IV was assassinated in Paris at the age of 57 on May 14 1610 by Francois Ravaillac, a fanatical Catholic.

Revolutionaries had destroyed many of the graves in the Royal Basilica in 1793, and many had been desecrated and the corpses mutilated in the wake of the French Revolution.

Very few remains of the mummified bodies have been preserved and identified.

The authors conclude that “similar methods could be used to identify all the other kings’ and queens’ skeletons lying in the mass grave of the basilica, so that they can be returned to their original tombs”.

Experts have published their findings in the Christmas issue on bmj.com.