Tuesday, 29 July 2014

It is very easy to view the medieval, battle weary knight, riding into the distance on his worn out steed, scarred and blooded in a romantic light isn't it? We visualise our armoured hero, victorious, living to fight another day. At Towton, on the 29th March 1461, it is said that 28,000 men lost their lives at the Battle of Towton, this should shock us but it doesn't really, does it? 

When I think of this, I am guilty of visualising the smokey, body strewn, blood soaked battlefield scene of Kenneth Branagh's Henry V. With images like that it is very hard for us to really know the extent of these poor mens injuries. We now have evidence of the wounds the medieval man inflected on one another and I would like to feature, the man who is now known as Towton 25, story again.

This soldier had survived battle before. A closer look at his wounds revealed.

"A healed skull fracture points to previous engagements. He was old enough—somewhere between 36 and 45 when he died—to have gained plenty of experience of fighting. But on March 29th 1461, his luck ran out. Towton 25 suffered eight wounds to his head that day. The precise order can be worked out from the direction of fractures on his skull: when bone breaks, the cracks veer towards existing areas of weakness. The first five blows were delivered by a bladed weapon to the left-hand side of his head, presumably by a right-handed opponent standing in front of him. None is likely to have been lethal.The next one almost certainly was. From behind him someone swung a blade towards his skull, carving a down-to-up trajectory through the air. The blow opened a huge horizontal gash into the back of his head—picture a slit you could post an envelope through. Fractures raced down to the base of his skull and around the sides of his head. Fragments of bone were forced in to Towton 25's brain, felling him. His enemies were not done yet. Another small blow to the right and back of the head may have been enough to turn him over onto his back. Finally another blade arced towards him. This one bisected his face, opening a crevice that ran from his left eye to his right jaw. It cut deep: the edge of the blade reached to the back of his throat."

What I am getting round to is sometimes we need to realise just how horrific medieval warfare was without looking through our rose coloured glasses. In the link attached, Christopher Maudsley helps with this, featuring a reconstructed image of Towton 25.

It makes me want to cry!

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