Oldest English cannonball linked to War of Roses clash

war of the roses

Researchers believe they have discovered the oldest surviving cannonball used in English warfare.

The damaged lead projectile, about three inches in diameter, was found at site of the Battle of Northampton, a War of the Roses clash fought nearly 555 years ago, in 1460.

The cannonball was actually discovered several years ago by Northampton resident Stuart Allwork and was only found in his house last year following his death.

Its significance was not realized until protests over plans to put sports fields on the battlefield site sparked demands for an archaeological survey, according to the BBC.

A study of the missile has led experts to the belief that artillery was used for the first time in conflict in England at the Northampton battle, fought between the House of Lancaster and the House of York, according to the media outlet.

The ball has been analyzed by medieval artillery expert Glenn Foard, who said the object suffered massive impact damage from at least two bounces and may have struck a tree.

It is not clear which side fired the cannonball, but some contemporary accounts suggest the Lancastrian guns failed to fire because of the rain – which means it most likely came from a Yorkist cannon.

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The brutal reality of Medieval warfare


Anyone who questions the brutal nature of medieval warfare need only read The Economist’s description of the fate of a Lancastrian soldier killed at the Battle of Towton during England’s bloody War of the Roses:

The soldier now known as Towton 25 had survived battle before. 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.

Though relatively unknown today, the Battle of Towton has been described as “probably the largest and bloodiest battle ever fought on English soil.”

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Is Richard III buried under a UK parking lot?

Archaeologists began digging up a parking lot in central England this past weekend looking for the remains of the last English king killed in battle.

Historians believe they may have finally located where infamous monarch Richard III is buried – under a parking lot in Leicester.

Richard was killed at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485, the last clash of the War of the Roses, and according to records his body was interred in a Franciscan friary in the area.

A team from the University of Leicester is excavating the site, with an initial goal of finding the remains of the friary, according to Reuters.

“The friary was, however, knocked down during Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries, and the exact location of the burial site has been one of Britain’s enduring historical mysteries ever since,” according to The Daily Mail.

Archaeologists came to the conclusion that Richard, who was last Plantagenet ruler and is considered England’s last Medieval King, was buried in the parking lot after closely examining ancient maps, the publication added.

Archaeologists have access to Richard III’s DNA after swab samples were taken from a direct descendant of the king’s sister, Canadian-born Michael Ibsen, Reuters reported.

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British to excavate War of the Roses graves

The Battle of Towton – fought during England’s War of the Roses – was likely the bloodiest battle ever fought on British soil, yet it it’s also one of the least known. That’s about to change.

Archaeologists believe they have located burial pits from the 1461 clash, a battle that claimed 28,000 lives, and will begin excavation this summer.

Work is to begin in June, at a site 12 miles south of York between the villages of Saxton and Towton where the battle took place. Experts have identified as many as five different mass burial sites and believe they could yield the remains of several hundred men, according to The Independent.

This week marks the 550th anniversary of the Battle of Towton, an event so bloody that almost 1 percent of the English population was wiped out in a single day. It is estimated that between 50,000 and 80,000 soldiers took part in the battle between the Houses of York and Lancaster for control of the English throne.

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