Forensics suggest Richard III killed by two blows to bare head

Tue Sep 16, 2014 7:34pm EDT
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By Kate Kelland

LONDON (Reuters) - Scientists in Britain have given blow-by-blow details of King Richard III's death at the Battle of Bosworth more than 500 years ago and say two of many blows to his bare head could have killed him very swiftly.

Their analysis of the remains of the last English monarch to die in battle suggest he was attacked by one or more people, and that nine of 11 blows, clearly inflicted in battle, were to his skull and another possibly fatal blow was to his pelvis. The findings also support previous opinion that he had no helmet on.

The head injuries are consistent with some near-contemporary accounts of the battle, the researchers said in findings published in The Lancet medical journal on Wednesday.

"The wounds to the skull suggest that he was not wearing a helmet, and the absence of defensive wounds on his arms and hands indicate that he was otherwise still armored at the time of his death," said Sarah Hainsworth, a professor of materials engineering at Leicester University, who co-led the study.

The remains of King Richard III were found by archaeologists under a municipal car park in the central English city of Leicester in 2012 and subsequently identified by experts from the city's university.

A court ruled in May this year that the king should be reburied near to where he was slain in battle, dashing the hopes of descendants who had wanted his remains to be taken back to his northern English stronghold of York.

According to historical record, the monarch was killed in battle on Bosworth Field, near Leicester, on Aug. 22, 1485, and those accounts suggest Richard was forced to abandon his horse after it became stuck in a mire and was then killed fighting.

His death was the culmination of the Wars of the Roses, a bloody 30-year power struggle between Richard's House of York and the rival House of Lancaster.   Continued...

A television image of King Richard III's skull is seen next to a portrait of him during a news conference in Leicester, central England February 4, 2013. REUTERS/Darren Staples