September 16, 2014 / 11:35 PM / in 3 years

Forensics suggest Richard III killed by two blows to bare head

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.

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

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 facial reconstruction of King Richard III is displayed during a news conference in central London in this February 5, 2013 file photo. REUTERS/Andrew Winning

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.

Slideshow (3 Images)

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.

Hainsworth’s team used whole body computerized tomography (CT) scans and micro-CT imaging to analyze trauma to the bones and determine which of Richard’s wounds might have proved fatal.

They also analyzed tool marks on bone to identify the medieval weapons potentially responsible for his injuries.

According to Guy Rutty, a pathologist on the research team, “the most likely injuries to have caused the king’s death are the two to the inferior aspect of the skull -- a large sharp force trauma possibly from a sword or staff weapon, such as a halberd or bill, and a penetrating injury from the tip of an edged weapon.”

Editing by Louise Ireland

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