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Skeleton from medieval battlefield goes on display at York museum….

Towton Skelly

I wonder who this gentleman might have been? At over 6′, and apparently buried aside from most of the fallen, he is thought to have been high status. So…how many noblemen died at Towton? Might he be someone of consequence to the Richard III/House of York story?

Two articles about this have come to my attention. The first is http://www.culture24.org.uk/history-and-heritage/military-history/art531095-battered-soldiers-body-tells-bloody-tale-of-the-wars-of-the-roses, which has a lot of detail about the skeleton’s injuries. The second is http://www.yorkpress.co.uk/news/13371948.Skeleton_from_medieval_battlefield_goes_on_display_at_York_museum/, which was actually the first one I came upon.

Here is the text of the above yorkpress article:-

THE skeleton of a warrior who fought in one of England’s bloodiest battles has gone on display in a York museum.

The Richard III Experience at Monk Bar says the remains will help visitors uncover the grisly history of Towton battlefield near Tadcaster. .A spokesman said the man, aged between 36 and 45 at the time of his death, measured an impressive 6 foot 1 inches, which was unusually tall for the medieval period.

“He is thought to be of a high status, down to his height, age and the fact he was found separate from the mass graves, under the floor of Towton Hall, close to the battlefield,” he said.

“He may have lived a privileged life but that didn’t protect him on the battlefield or spare him a gruesome death, as evidence on the skeleton shows some very deep cuts acrosshis body.

“The skeleton shows some extensive injuries, he has a stab wound to his left foot, which shattered one of the bones and cut two more, does this mean he was on horseback and combatants on the ground were slashing at him from below or was this an injury caused by downward blow of a sword?”

Sarah Maltby, director of attractions for York Archaeological Trust, the owners of the Richard III Experience, said there were two wounds on the skull – an apparent weapon cut on his lower jaw but at the base of the skull a blunt force trauma has taken place, either from a blunt instrument striking the skull or a bladed weapon caused the same injury under the protection of headgear.

“It is thought that this blow to the back of the head is the fatal injury,” she said.

The skeleton display is a new addition to the ‘Commemorating the Re-Interment of Richard III’ exhibition in Monk Bar, which explores the significance of the 1461 battle of Towton on Richard’s life and the story of the re-discovery of the last Plantagenet monarch in Leicester.

The museum is open 10am to 5pm every day. For more information visit http://www.richardiiiexperience.com.

*People can watch a time-lapse video of the installation of the skeleton by going to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QapH0pAXJOE

 
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10 thoughts on “Skeleton from medieval battlefield goes on display at York museum….

  1. Kalina on said:

    Ooooo….he had a scoliosis too…

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  2. viscountessw on said:

    I noticed that curve too, Kalina. Perhaps they could not resist making him a teensy like Richard? Perhaps they did not even know they’d done it. Or perhaps, without the benefit of modern medicine and treatment, scoliosis was visibly more common then than it is now? Perhaps if we could see how many instances of it there were in the armies of the WOTR, we’d be amazed.

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  3. Scoliosis is very common actually. As an osteopath I see a lot of scolioses. There are different types, and I have one caused by a leg length discrepancy. Any as marked as Richard’s was would be operated on nowadays, as you say, viscountess! I’m not sure the above skeleton actually had a scoliosis – surely they would have mentioned it if so? It looks like it hasn’t been positioned anatomically, but it’s hard to see – when I enlarge is it goes blurry. And they have put the sternum way to one side.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. He certainly looks like he had long legs!

    So, just looking at the info online, several prominent Lancastrians are listed as having been killed at Towton. The most high ranking one is Henry Percy, 3rd Duke of Northumberland, who was 39 at the time, and who commanded the vanguard and apparently ” Seeing that his archers, who were blinded by a snowstorm, were unable to stand against the arrows of the Yorkists, he hastened to come to close quarters, and was slain.” Another Lancastrians killed at Towton include John Neville, 1st Baron Neville, 50 or 51 at the time (Kingmaker’s half-cousin, who had switched sides at Wakefield, presumably out of the rivalry between the two branches of the Neville family); Lancastrian strategist Sir Anthony Trollope and his son David; John Clifford, Baron de Clifford (notorious for the murder of young Edmund, Earl of Rutland after the battle of Wakefield), who was however just 25 and is said to have been killed by an archer, and his brother-in-law Ser William Plumpton, who was also about 25 or 26; and Lord Dacre, who’s also unlikely to be our guy both because he was also killed by an archer, and because he has a grave.

    I found it interesting in the first article that they speculate that a wound on his jaw, and similar wounds found on the skulls of many other casualties at Towton, may have be a result of his enemies trying to get his helmet off. Since he was killed by a blow to the back of the head, that seems likely, and it’s also similar to how Richard III died. Dominic Smee has posted in one of the previous entries that there was speculation during the reconstruction of Richard’s last moments that the wound to his jaw was due to someone trying (and probably succeeding) in cutting the straps of his helmet. Going by this article, this seems to have been a common practice. This man also has a wound to his foot, which is speculated to have been a result of combatants on the ground slashing at his feet while he was mounted on horse; I wonder if this may have been an attempt to throw him off the horse/make him fall from it? It would make sense as a way to fight a mounted knight: step 1, get him off his horse, step 2, get his helmet off, step 3, aim for his head.

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    • So which of the casualties are tall and have DNA available? See John Clifford’s suggestion.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I don’t know about his height, but they already have the DNA to check if this is Henry Percy, 3rd Duke of Northumberland, whose age and what is known of his death make him likely candidate: Richard III’s DNA and the DNA of Michael Ibsen and Wendy Duldig that they used to identify Richard. Northumberland’s mother was Eleanor Neville, daughter of Joan Beaufort and sister to Cecily Neville, so he and Richard III had the same mitochondrial DNA.

        (So, he and Edward IV were first cousins. How typical of the War of the Roses.)

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  5. viscountessw on said:

    Very thoughtful comment, timetravellingbunny. We learn more and more about how mounted, armoured knights were slain. And you have now pinpointed some likely candidates for these remains. I do hope more research is done, and that you are proved right with one of the names.

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    • He could be Lord John Clifford who was killed at Townton one of the Lord Cliffords who was exhumed at Skipton was very tall , will you be taking his DNA as some of The Clifford associations members have had their DNA s done & would be delighted to be involved . Kind Regards John Clifford

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      • Noted.

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      • He was just 25, though, and the only account of his death (in Hall’s chronicle) claims he died from an arrow to his throat. Doesn’t fit with this man, who is deemed to have been between 36 and 45 and died in close combat from a wound from a blunt weapon to the back of his head.

        But even if he’s not this man, his remains may be among the other bodies found at the site of the battle.

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