Grandpa William keeps on making news

Sir William Gardiner

Sir William Gardiner

King Richard III

King Richard III

The old saying “Get off your high horse” would have been bad advice for Richard III, King of England.

Since the skeleton of the fallen monarch was found buried under a parking lot in the city of Leicester, England, in 2012, scientists and others have been trying to figure out everything they can about him.

Among early conclusions they reached is that, while through history — prompted by Shakespeare’s unflattering depictions of him — Richard was believed to be a hunchback, he actually only had scoliosis. That meant that while his back was slightly curved, it would not have hindered his movement, even in battle.

The latest reported conclusion is that — surprise, surprise! — Richard probably suffered a very painful death at the Battle of Bosworth Field on August 22, 1485.

That, for the historically challenged, was a bloody affair between the forces of the Plantagenets of York — Richard’s side — and the Tudors of Lancaster. It effectively ended the Plantagenet dynasty and allowed Henry Tudor to assume rule of England under the title Henry VII.

The battle was the last time a reigning English monarch was killed in battle. Later historians dubbed the lengthy series of Plantagenet-Tudor battles as “The War of the Roses” because York’s symbol was the white rose, Lancaster’s the red rose.

I know a bit about the events of that day because I’m working, ever so slowly, on a book about it. More specifically, I’m concentrating on a history of the man who dealt the death blow to Richard, one William Gardiner, who was knighted after the battle for his services and later married one of the offspring of the Tudors.

He happens to be my 17th great grandfather.

The latest research, published in the British medical journal Lancet, says detailed examination of Richard’s bones shows  evidence of of 11 injuries from weapons including daggers, swords and a long metal pole with an axe and hook that was used to pull knights off their horses.

A halberdier.

A halberdier.

The latter weapon, known as a halberd, was Grandpa William’s specialty. He was a broad-shouldered, powerfully-built man who in much of his life was a successful merchant, but also hired out as a mercenary halberdier and was renowned in his time for his skill with the weapon.

All historical research I’ve done supports the idea that William Gardiner was indeed the man who pulled Richard from his horse and ended his life with a stroke of the axe portion of the halberd that caved in the king’s skull, battle crown and all.

The Lancet report says scientists used computer scans, among other methods, to analyze the wounds.

“Richard was probably in quite a lot of pain at the end,” according to Sarah Hainsworth, a professor of materials engineering at the University of Leicester and one of the study authors. “Medieval battle was bloody and brutal,” she said, noting one of the skull injuries showed a blade had pierced Richard’s head.

Although Richard suffered numerous wounds, it was significant that no one has found any evidence that there were any attempts to disfigure him.

“Having evidence that the real Richard III is dead is very useful,” said Steven Gunn, an associate professor of history at Oxford University, who was not part of the research. “You don’t want somebody popping up somewhere later claiming to be the real king.”

For those who like additional details, here is an excerpt from the book “The Making of the Tudor Dynasty,” based on the writings of Jean Molinet, a chronicler from Burgundy who was at the Battle of Bosworth Field:

“Richard, so confident of victory that he was wearing his crown, could observe from a higher level along the hillside that his own personal vanguard was superior to Henry’s and decided to end the battle quickly by slaying Henry Tudor. Sir William Stanley was standing by with an uncommitted force of 3,000 men, ready to rout the losing side. Richard III spurred his horse and in quick time, with his vanguard, engaged Henry in combat.

“As Richard went for Henry to deliver his mortal blow [enter Grandpa William] one of Henry’s men, a … halberdier, intervened, knocking off Richard’s crown, then giving one mighty swing smashed Richard’s helmet into his skull.

“Seeing that their leader was slain, his vanguard began to withdraw and, immediately, Sir William Stanley ordered his men after Richard’s fleeing troops, thus ending the battle in Henry’s favor.”


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About Bill Dowd

Webmaster/social media coordinator for the Southern Rensselaer County NY Rotary Club.

Posted on September 19, 2014, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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