Beethoven may have been killed by lead in red wine

German composer Ludwig van Beethoven may have been killed by the presence of lead in his red wine, according to provocative new research that has just come to light.

New evidence suggests that lead in his red could have caused Beethoven’s demise

As reported by Wine Spectator, Beethoven’s autopsy put his death down to cirrhosis of the liver, with pancreatitis and peritonitis (an infection of the inner lining of the stomach) as contributing factors.

The classical composer was known to be fond of a drink – once source claims he drank as much as a bottle of wine with each meal – and by the end of his life was bedridden with a failing liver and pancreas, migraines and abdominal pain.

He died during a thunderstorm on 26 March 1827, aged just 56, after failed attempts by doctors to revive him with a spiked punch.

New research published in La Libre Belgique by Fabrizio Bucella of the Université Libre de Bruxelle suggests that it wasn’t simply an excess of alcohol that was to blame for Beethoven’s death, and that his doctors may have covered up the truth in the autopsy in order to release a clean bill of death.

In 2013 new evidence came to light regarding Beethoven’s death. A toxicology analysis of his hair and bones found poisonous concentrations of lead at the time of his death.

It was initially thought that Beethoven was exposed to this through lead-crystal glasses, but Bucella argues that “it cannot explain the concentration measured” in his body when he died.

“Another hypothesis must therefore be postulated: that of intoxication by adding lead directly into the wine,” Bucella told Wine Spectator.

According to French wine writer Jacques Dupont, the wines that Beethoven enjoyed during his life – lower-quality wines from Germany and Hungary – were often “treated” with litharge, a mineral form of lead monoxide; to soften the character “sour wines” and “correct the greenness.”

Beethoven is one of the greatest composers of all time, and was a crucial figure in the transition between the classical and romantic eras. Among his most famous works are his Ninth Symphony, Moonlight Sonata and Für Elise. He continued to compose after going deaf in 1816.

His last words are a bit of a mystery. It’s often thought that they were: “applaud friends, the comedy is ended”, but his parting gift to the world was far less cerebral. After a publisher bought Beethoven 12 bottles of wine as a gift, the dying composer’s final words were: “Pity, pity, too late!”

One Response to “Beethoven may have been killed by lead in red wine”

  1. Hervé Lalau says:

    When he was in Vienna, Beethoven is said to have drink Austrian white wines from Mayer am Pfarr, in Heilingenstadt, that were anything but plonk.
    And what about the water he drank when staying at spas?

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