Richard III: Killed by a sword thrust to the base of the skull
The death blow delivered to Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth is believed to have been caused by a sword which was thrust into the base of his skull after he fell to his knees.
Using state-of-the-art techniques, academics at the University of Leicester have matched their forensic findings to the historical accounts of Richard's last stand.
Micro-CT scans, taken at the university's engineering department, have found 10 wounds on the monarch's skull and body, including two large injuries at the base of his head.
Other trauma included blade marks on Richard's ribs and a strange, rather gruesome, injury to the inside of his pelvis – which specialists said could have been caused by being stabbed through the right buttock.
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One of the country's leading forensic materials experts, Professor Sarah Hainsworth, who specialises in bladed weapons, said: "We can never be 100 per cent clear about which of the injuries Richard received ultimately led to his death, because there are a number of candidates.
"But the two which correlate to historical reports are found at the base of the skull, where it meets the spine, and are the most likely to have killed him."
Prof Hainsworth has been working with medieval weapons expert Bob Woosnam-Savage, from the Royal Armouries, in Leeds, and said she believed the head injuries were caused by two weapons.
She said: "The first one could be from a halberd, which would have gone into the brain and may have caused death if administered first.
"However, the one that probably killed him was the second injury, caused by a sword, which entered the skull at the base and went through the brain until it hit the top of the inside of the skull.
"Historical reports also seem to suggest he was on his knees when the death blow was delivered."
Historian David Baldwin said accounts of the Battle of Bosworth written by the French poet and chronicler Jean Molinet supported the university's discoveries.
David said: "Molinet says that Richard was killed by a Welshman with a poleaxe, which is very similar to a halberd, after his horse became stuck in mud and he was surrounded by his enemies."
Another account describes a basinet being driven into his head "until his brains came out with blood", strengthening the theory the death blow left one of the two wounds at the base of the skull.
Sources also describe blows raining down on him and how the crown was "hewyd" from his head "with dowtfull dents".
Doctoral student Richard Earl used the university's Micro-CT scanner to create a 3D image of the skull and other injured limbs. The scans clearly show a collection other injuries, which may have been caused before or after he had been killed.
However, there were no injuries to Richard's face.
Prof Hainsworth said the lack of damage to the front of the skull was unusual – as battle wounds from around that time tended to cause huge disfiguration to the victims.
She said: "Whoever killed Richard wanted to keep his face in one piece."
David Baldwin said: "Henry VII would have wanted people to see Richard's face and see that he was dead.
"Clearly, any injuries which disfigured him would have made this difficult."
Historians are confident Richard's body was stripped naked following his death and placed on the back of a horse before being brought back to Leicester.
Archaeologist Dr Jo Appleby, who was given the task of removing the remains from the ground, said it was likely Richard was stripped of both mail armour and heavier armour.
The body was then publicly displayed for two days for everyone to see.
"Other monarchs had a nasty habit of returning," said David.
"Henry VII wanted to remove all doubt from people's minds that Richard III was no more."