LEICESTER, England, Sept. 17 (UPI) -- In the scene of the final battle of Shakespeare's Richard III, the fallen king cries: "A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse!"
The famous line is the dramatization of the death of the real King Richard III, who ruled England from 1483 to 1485. The 15th century king died in the Battle of Bosworth Field on Aug. 22, 1485, after his horse became stuck in the mire.
His body was given to local monks and buried in an unknown grave, and the location of his remains were only discovered in 2012. He was the last English king killed in battle.
Now researchers have learned how Richard died, revealing through forensic analysis that he suffered 11 wounds around the time of his death, including two potentially fatal blows to the head.
"Richard's injuries represent a sustained attack or an attack by several assailants with weapons from the later medieval period," said Professor Sarah Hainsworth, an author of the study published Wednesday in the Lancet. "The wounds to the skull suggest that he was not wearing a helmet, and the absence of defensive wounds on his arms and hands indicate that he was otherwise still armored at the time of his death."
Using whole-body CT scans and micro-CT imaging of the bones, the Lancet study found nine injuries to the king's skull and two elsewhere. The wounds were made by weapons including daggers, swords and a long pole with an axe and hook used to pull knights from their horses.
"The most likely injuries to have caused the king's death are the two to the inferior aspect of the skull -- a large sharp force trauma possibly from a sword or staff weapon, such as a halberd or bill, and a penetrating injury from the tip of an edged weapon," said Professor Guy Rutty, a co-author of the study.
"Richard's head injuries are consistent with some near contemporary accounts of the battle, which suggest that Richard abandoned his horse after it became stuck in a mire and was killed while fighting his enemies."
The researchers believe another of the injuries, to the king's pelvis, could have been inflicted after his death.
"We believe that this corresponds to contemporary accounts of Richard III being slung over the back of the horse to be taken back to Leicester after the Battle of Bosworth, as this would give someone the correct body position to inflict this injury," Hainsworth said.
Richard will be reburied next spring in Leicester Cathedral, not far from where his body was found two years ago.