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Historical weapons expert discovers how Richard III died
8:18am Thursday 7th February 2013 in Local news
A historical weapons expert from Otley has spoken about his key role in working out the final moments of King Richard III.
Bob Woosnam-Savage was part of the team whose work led to this week's confirmation that a skeleton found beneath a Leicester car park was that of the last English monarch to die in battle.
Curator of European Edged Weapons at the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds, Mr Woosnam-Savage used his expertise to piece together exactly how Richard probably died in the Battle of Bosworth Field.
He described his participation in the Leicester University-led investigation as “a privilege”.
He said: “I was looking at the trauma of the skeleton, trying to identify which medieval weapons might have been used to inflict the wounds.
“The main ones were a halberd, which took a slice of his skull off at the back, and a puncture wound from a long-bladed dagger or sword.
“Those are the two wounds that would have proved fatal. The wounds that killed him, and most of those to the skull, are to the rear and I think that was deliberate, to keep his face undamaged so his identity couldn't be disputed.”
Historical accounts say Richard III was slain while leading a mounted charge against Henry Tudor, after he got surrounded.
Mr Woosnam-Savage says the damage to Richard's skeleton is consistent with him being attacked from all sides, but also includes many injuries caused after death.
He said: “The skeleton bears other wounds which can only be explained as having been delivered after any armour was removed from the body.
“These ‘insult injuries’ might have included the small stab wound to the face; a stab in the back from behind, which struck a rib and, perhaps most tellingly, a stab wound, possibly delivered with a knife or dagger, to the buttocks."
Called in to examine the remains before Christmas, he found the circumstantial evidence for the skeleton being that of Richard III - which included its curvature of the spine and the battle wounds - compelling.
"We just had to wait for the scientific analysis to confirm it," he said.
"It's been a privilege to work on this, it's not every day you get to literally put a name and a face to a medieval king.
"It just shows there are still things out there to find and discover - this skeleton has been lying there for nearly 530 years."
Despite his recent high profile - Richard III: The King In The Car Park was shown on Channel 4 on Monday - Mr Woosnam-Savage has yet to be mobbed by local fans.
He said: "Some people in Otley know what I do, but not many. I go to Middlemiss butchers where we sometimes compare the best way of taking off a head, which gets me some strange looks!"