Arming Richard

When I was in Leicester for the re-interment I was lucky enough to be able to attend a lecture by the armour expert, Richard Knox, and Dominic Smee, Richard’s body double.

Demonstration of Richard III double being armed
Richard Knox arming Dominic

As an osteopath I was interested in some of the information Dominic gave about that and this included the height of Richard and how much he would have lost because of the scoliosis. Dominic said that his orthopaedic consultant told him that he had lost three inches because of the scoliosis. As we know, Richard would have been 5 feet 8 inches without taking it into account, so that means his actual height would have been 5 feet 5 inches (not 4 feet 8 inches which I saw reported in a local Leicester paper!) Additionally, Dominic told us that his scoliosis began one vertebra lower than Richard’s and that this would mean that Richard would have been a little more flexible in the hips than him but a little less flexible in the shoulders. (As an aside, Dominic also told us his brother’s name was Richard!)

Dominic in body armour
Dominic shows that his scoliosis is not apparent in armour (nor, indeed, when in normal clothes)

As far as the actual arming went, they showed us the kind of armour Richard would have worn and then how it would have been fitted. Dominic wore his leg armour from the start of the talk as he said that was quite tricky to put on and fairly easy and light to wear, so perhaps Richard would have worn his leg armour in advance of the battle as well. Nor would the leg armour prevent them answering the call of nature! The rest of the harness took about twenty minutes to put on and, to demonstrate, Dominic was armed by Richard Knox while they commented on what they were doing and what it was called, etc. One fascinating photo-slide that they showed was of the view Dominic had while wearing the armour during his charge on horseback. All he could see was his horse’s ears! It must have been terrifying! And he didn’t have enemy soldiers trying to kill him. I later tried on one of the helmets and it was terribly claustrophobic. Not only could you see very little, nor could you hear clearly – everything was muffled. And Dominic confirmed it would get very hot after wearing it for a while, especially in the summer. So now I can understand why some knights in armour would have removed their helmets, despite the danger. I could almost feel the panic if one was claustrophobic.

Dominic armed - note the helmet's narrow eye slit
Dominic armed – note the helmet’s narrow eye slit

In conclusion, I now appreciate even more how courageous Richard and the other knights must have been to charge into battle against the enemy, whilst being half deafened, half blinded and suffocatingly hot!


  1. How enlightening this is. Thank you jrlarner. What a choice for a man to have to make on a hot summer day. The helmet and protection, or no helmet but able to see, hear, get the fresh air and thus be able to think clearly. The second option might be hazardous, but it would perhaps steal a march on those who were still helmeted. Not a choice I’d like to make. However, it has to be conceded that I wouldn’t want to be on a battlefield in the first place. Yes, they were truly brave.

    But a question arises for me. We all imagine Richard’s helmet was knocked off or cut off, but what if he removed it for the very reasons cited above? In the heat, blood and fury of battle, might he have made a fatal choice? Or did that not arise because he had been unhorsed and was at his enemies’ mercy anyway?

    Unanswerable points continue to plague us all when it comes to Richard and Bosworth. Why? What? Where? How? When? And, of course… the eternally heartfelt regret, ‘if only’.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. My first thought in reading this was Richard may well have removed his helmet himself rather than have it pulled or pushed off. Also, the 5’5″ height sounds exactly right – and given that he was a slight man might have appeared even smaller – hence the contemporary comments that he “was of low stature.” Thanks, Joanne, for this interesting report!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. @ viscountessw

    It was not included in the live show, but we decided that the wound to the jaw may have been caused by somebody trying to cut the chin strap in order to remove Richard’s helmet.

    @ jrlarner

    Great article! You might be interested to know that armour can also cause problems in cold weather. In cold weather you can be at risk from hyperthermia because the metal draws heat from your body.

    Liked by 5 people

  3. Thanks Dom – I’d forgotten that. Hazardous occupation being a knight in armour! BTW I think you were very brave yourself to do that charge while only being able to see your horse’s ears!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow. Just…wow. To think that with all the visual impairment, Richard still came within only a few feet of killing the Tydder…he must have had the best of mentors as a page and squire learning how to fight.

    I’m so grateful that Dom is among us, to show us in living movement what Richard was capable of. And to you too, JR, for sharing this with us.

    It also occurred to me that Richard might have been heat sensitive and prone to headache and exhaustion in temperatures over 70-75 degrees (21-24C). How hot was it inside that armor on 22 August? And could the heat have contributed to his wish to have things over with as quickly as possible?

    I’ve seen it posited that the footsoldiers were taking a break from the battle when Richard was informed where the Tydder was and he organized his charge. Was the heat affecting them too?

    Liked by 2 people

  5. That’s interesting – why do you think he might have been heat sensitive? I suppose he was thought to have taken a drink, wasn’t he? I believe John Ashdown-Hill has a theory that he might have been suffering from the sweating sickness.


    1. Then again the Yorkist’s advance on Tewkesbury is supposed to have been difficult because of high temperatures and no clean water left by the fleeing Lancastrians. That didn’t stop Richard Gloucester from taking a serious part in the action, either, so he probably was not overly sensitive to heat.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. ‘Heat’ is relative. Where I come from, we start talking about ‘a nip in the air’ when the temperature falls below 80F.
    I found this very interesting, as one of my sons has scoliosis – milder and higher up that Richard’s or Dominic’s, and it was adult-onset. At least, nobody noticed it when he was a teen-ager. When he is walking away, wearing just a shirt, (trousers too, of course) it is obvious, but not in a jacket. But I’m thankful he has a desk job anyway.

    Liked by 2 people

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: