Forensic science reveals the gory details of Richard III’s death at the Battle of Bosworth Field

Forensic science reveals the gory details of Richard III’s death at the Battle of Bosworth Field

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Scientists used whole body CT scans and micro-CT imaging of injured bones from the skeleton of Richard III to reveal that the medieval king sustained 11 wounds, 9 of them to the skull.



The results of the University of Leicester study, published today in The Lancet, concluded that the king’s injuries were consistent with a sustained attack or an attack by several assailants with medieval weapons.

The wounds to his skull indicate that he was not wearing a helmet, while the absence of wounds on his arms and hands suggest that he was still wearing armour at the time of his death.

Two of the head wounds, one caused by a blow from a sword or staff weapon, the second by the tip of an edged weapon, were probably lethal.  An injury to the pelvis may have been inflicted after death when the king’s armour was removed.

The findings tally with various historical accounts of the king’s death in battle on 22 August 1485.  Richard had come within a sword’s length of killing his enemy Henry Tudor but was held off by Henry’s bodyguards.  When Richard was unseated after his horse became stuck in the marshy ground, he was surrounded by Sir William Stanley’s men and killed.

Polydore Vergil, Henry Tudor’s official historian, recorded that “King Richard, alone, was killed fighting manfully in the thickest press of his enemies.”  The Burgundian chronicler Jean Molinet said that a Welshman with a halberd struck a blow which was so violent that the king’s helmet was driven into his skull.  The contemporary Welsh poet Guto’r Glyn implies the leading Welsh Lancastrian Rhys ap Thomas, or one of his men, killed the king, writing that he “killed the boar by shaving his head”.

Source: the Lancet

Richard III's skull. One injury is a hole near the spine, where a large piece of bone has been sliced away by a heavy bladed weapon. A smaller dent which cracked the inside of the skull was probably caused by a dagger. Images by University of Leicester
Richard III’s skull. One injury is a hole near the spine, where a large piece of bone has been sliced away by a heavy bladed weapon. A smaller dent which cracked the inside of the skull was probably caused by a dagger. Images by the University of Leicester

 

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