According to new scientific research, Richard III was most likely to have been killed by two blows to the head and one to his pelvis.
The English king was killed at the Battle of Bosworth on August 22, 1485.
Forensic teams at the University of Leicester have now revealed Richard III suffered 11 injuries before his death, three of which may have been fatal.
Modern techniques were used on his 500-year-old skeleton to determine his injuries and the medieval weapons used.
His remains were found under a car park in Leicester in 2012.
The results of forensic analysis, published in The Lancet, have now shown he sustained nine wounds to the skull and two to the postcranial skeleton.
Researchers said three of these “had the potential to cause death quickly”.
Forensic teams at the University of Leicester have now revealed Richard III suffered 11 injuries before his death, three of which may have been fatal
Sarah Hainsworth, study author and professor of materials engineering, said: “Richard’s injuries represent a sustained attack or an attack by several assailants with weapons from the later medieval period.
“Wounds to the skull suggest he was not wearing a helmet, and the absence of defensive wounds on his arms and hands indicate he was still armored at the time of his death.”
Investigators said they believed the postcranial injuries, including one to the pelvis, might have been inflicted after Richard’s death, as his armor would have protected him had he been alive.
Guy Rutty, from the East Midlands pathology unit, said the two fatal injuries to the skull were likely to have been caused by a sword, a staff weapon such as halberd or bill, or the tip of an edged weapon.
He said: “Richard’s head injuries are consistent with some near-contemporary accounts of the battle, which suggest Richard abandoned his horse after it became stuck in a mire and was killed while fighting his enemies.”
King Richard’s skeleton is due to be reinterred at Leicester Cathedral in March.
Richard III was born in 1452 at Fotheringhay Castle in Northamptonshire. His coronation took place in Westminster Abbey in 1483.
He had one of the shortest reigns in British history – 26 months.
Richard III was the last English king to die in battle, killed at Bosworth in 1485.
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Richard III facial reconstruction based on the skull found under a car park in Leicester has revealed how the English king may have looked.
The skeleton found in Leicester has been confirmed as that of the king.
The reconstructed face has a slightly arched nose and prominent chin, similar to features shown in portraits of Richard III painted after his death.
Historian and author John Ashdown-Hill said seeing it was “almost like being face to face with a real person”.
The development comes after archaeologists from the University of Leicester confirmed the skeleton found last year was the 15th Century king’s, with DNA from the bones having matched that of descendants of the monarch’s family.
Richard III was killed in the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, at the age of 32 and after just two years on the throne, having been challenged by the forces of Henry Tudor, the future Henry VII.
Dr. John Ashdown-Hill, who wrote The Last Days of Richard III, said: “The most obvious features in portraits are the shape of the nose and the chin and both of those are visible in the facial reconstruction.”
Richard III Society member Philippa Langley, originator of the search, said on a Channel 4 documentary earlier: “It doesn’t look like the face of a tyrant. I’m sorry but it doesn’t.
“He’s very handsome. It’s like you could just talk to him, have a conversation with him right now.”
Layers of muscle and skin were added by computer to a scan of the skull and the result was made into a three-dimensional plastic model.
Richard III facial reconstruction based on the skull found under a car park in Leicester has revealed how the English king may have looked
Dr. John Ashdown-Hill said: “I had said previously that when I stood by the grave in Leicester that I felt closer to Richard III than I had ever been, but when I saw the facial reconstruction I realised I had been close to a dead Richard III.
“It was just bones, just a body, whereas confronting a facial reconstruction, I felt almost in the presence of a living Richard III.”
The facial reconstruction is particularly important because there are no surviving contemporary portraits of Richard III.
Dr. John Ashdown-Hill said: “All the surviving portraits of him – even the very later ones with humped backs and things which were obviously later additions – facially are quite similar [to each other] so it has always been assumed that they were based on a contemporary portrait painted in his lifetime or possibly several portraits painted in his lifetime.”
The Richard III society will officially unveil the reconstruction at 10:00 GMT on Tuesday, at the Society of Antiquaries in London.
It is expected that the reconstruction will be put on public display in future.
Experts from the University of Leicester said DNA from the skeleton matches that of a descendant of Richard III’s family.
Dr. John Ashdown-Hill said: “We weren’t certain whether the body was Richard III so the facial reconstruction – particularly if it hadn’t been possible to get DNA from the bones – might have been an additional piece of evidence, and still is.”
Caroline Wilkinson, professor of craniofacial identification at the University of Dundee, said: “When the 3D digital bust was complete it was replicated in plastic using a rapid prototyping system and this was painted, prosthetic eyes added and dressed with a wig, hat and clothing.”
Prof. Caroline Wilkinson said the Dundee team artist, Janice Aitken, used the portraits of Richard III at this stage as reference for hair style and color, eye color, skin color and clothing.
“These details are not known from the skeletal remains and are estimated based on the most likely appearance from this period of time,” she said.
British archaeologists searching for the grave of Richard III have said “strong circumstantial evidence” points to a skeleton being the lost king.
The English king died at the battle of Bosworth in 1485.
A dig under a council car park in Leicester has found remains with spinal abnormalities and a “cleaved-in skull” that suggest it could be Richard III.
The University of Leicester will now test the bones for DNA against descendants of Richard’s family.
Professor Lin Foxhall, head of the university’s School of Archaeology, said: “Archaeology almost never finds named individuals – this is absolutely extraordinary.
“Although we are far from certain yet, it is already astonishing.”
A dig under a council car park in Leicester has found remains with spinal abnormalities and a cleaved-in skull that suggest it could be Richard III
A university spokesperson said the evidence included signs of a peri-mortem (near-death) trauma to the skull and a barbed iron arrow head in the area of the spine.
Richard III is recorded by some sources as having been pulled from his horse and killed with a blow to the head.
The skeleton also showed severe scoliosis – a curvature of the spine.
Although not as pronounced as Shakespeare’s portrayal of the king as a hunchback, the condition would have given the adult male the appearance of having one shoulder higher than the other.
Philippe Langley, from the Richard III Society, said: “It is such a tumult of emotions, I am shell-shocked.
“I just feel happy and sad and excited all at the same time. It is very odd.”
As the defeated foe, Richard III was given a low-key burial in the Franciscan friary of Greyfriars.
This was demolished in the 1530s, but documents describing the burial site have survived.
The excavation, which began on 25 August, has uncovered the remains of the cloisters and chapter house, as well as the church.
Work focused on the choir area, in the centre of the church, where it was indicated Richard was interred.
The bones were lifted by archaeologists wearing forensic body suits in an effort to limit contamination by modern materials.
DNA will be extracted from the bones and tested against descendants of Richard’s family.
Dr. Turi King, who is leading the DNA analysis, said: “It is extremely exciting and slightly nerve-wracking.
“We have extracted teeth from the skull, so we have that and a femur, and we are optimistic we will get a good sample from those.”
The tests are expected to take about 12 weeks to complete.
If their identity is confirmed, Leicester Cathedral said it would work with the Royal Household, and with the Richard III Society, to ensure the remains were treated with dignity and respect and reburied with the appropriate rites and ceremonies of the church.
Work to record the finds are continuing and discussions about when to fill in the trenches are ongoing, officials said.