It’s hard out there for a knight

A 14th c. skeleton found buried under the floor of the chapel in Stirling Castle, Scotland, has yielded new clues to what a hard-scrabble existence being a knight errant really was. The skeleton was first uncovered in 1997 and radio-carbon dated to circa 1390 AD.

It wasn’t until until recent advances in laser scanning, though, that they found out how many hits the poor guy had to take during his young life.

He appears to have survived for some time with a large arrowhead lodged in his chest, while the re-growth of bone around a dent in the front of his skull indicates that he had also recovered from a severe blow from an axe.

He eventually died when he was struck by a sword that sliced through his nose and jaw. His reconstructed skull also indicates that he was lying on the ground when the fatal blow was delivered. […]

However, it was only recently re-examined following advances in laser scanning techniques that not only revealed the nature of the three wounds, but also showed that the knight had lost teeth, probably from another blow or from falling from his horse.

They think they know who he was: one Robert Morley, killed in tournament at Stirling Castle in 1388.

He had bone stress on his ankles from riding and muscle injuries from heavy lifting. His right arm was bigger than the other from all the swordplay. He was between 18 and 26 when he died.

I’m sure courtly love was on high his list of priorities, right after surviving axe blows to the skull.

12 thoughts on “It’s hard out there for a knight

  1. Stirling Castle was a rough place. When visiting a few years ago I was happy to see that there was a Douglas Room and Douglas Garden, both named after an ancestor with the same surname. Unfortunately the guide told me that they named Douglas Room because James II murdered 8th Earl of Douglas in that room (in 1452)then dumped his body outside in what became known as Douglas Garden. No wonder a lot of my people emigrated to America!

  2. Maybe the poor chap actually prioritised courtly love a little higher than surviving blows to the skull. That would certainly explain his predicament. :p

  3. I’m very interested in the image on this page. Can you give me a contact email address so we can discuss it further.

  4. The margreave Otto IV of Brandenburg who lived about a century earlier, was called “Otto with the arrow” (mit dem pfรฎle), after he in one battle got an arrow into his skull – and left it there for more than a year, because he was so afraid of having doctors meddle with him, poor thing! However, in the end he assembled the courage to have it removed. But the nickname stayed.

    (I do suppose that he had at least the shaft removed at once, though, so that he could lie down and sleep. But I don’t actually know. Anyhow, they slept in a sitting position in those days, so who knows…)

    1. They slept in a sitting position in those days? Do you have a source for that?

      Otto IV of Brandenburg was probably wise to keep the doctors away. Obviously it worked out in the end since he survived. ๐Ÿ˜€

  5. That photo is rather compelling. There is something…revering…about a live human being poking around an uncovered skeleton of a long-dead human being, then getting to tell the dead person’s story as if you met that person face-to-face.

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