The problems of Richard III’s Y chromosome

The problems of Richard III’s Y chromosome; the problems relating to the burials at Clare Priory, and the problems of working with Historic England

In 2004, following the request of colleagues in Belgium, I discovered the mtDNA sequence of King Richard III and his siblings. Mitochondrial DNA is inherited only in the all-female line. In that same year I was commissioned by the BBC to research the ‘body in the river’ story which was then widely recounted in Leicester regarding the fate of Richard III’s remains. As a result of my research on that story, in 2005, with the help of the Richard III Society East Midland (Leicester) Branch, I persuaded Leicester City Council to allow the erection of a new plaque next to the Victorian plaque near Bow Bridge, which commemorates the ‘body in the river’ myth. My new plaque stated that the nineteenth-century inscription of the Victorian memorial was untrue.

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The Henry Tudor Society & Death Certificates

The HENRY TUDOR SOCIETY has on its website an article with the title

The Lincoln Roll – the Princes’ Death Certificate?

First, this article employs the practice of referring to Richard III (who was INVITED to mount the throne of England by the Three Estates of the Realm) as ‘USURPER’ – a term which it does not employ in relation to Henry VII – who seized the English throne in battle.

However, the main claim of the article is that a family tree roll which it claims once belonged to John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln, contains ‘an approximate date for the death of Edward V and disproves the idea that either of the Princes might have survived’. It states that

Edward V’s medallion reads

Edward first-born son of King Edward and Elizabeth

“In iunie tute sine liberis decessit”

In June safely without issue deceased in childhood (my translation)

Richard, Duke of York’s medallion reads

Richard second son of King Edward and Elizabeth

“Etiam decessit sine liberis”

 Also deceased without issue in childhood

Various commentators on the article have already pointed out that the author / translator of the Latin phrases (David Durose) has misinterpreted the inscriptions relating to the so-called ‘princes’ (the illegitimate sons of Edward IV and Elizabeth Widville). The comments by Marie Walsh, Ibphilly and others are entirely correct. There is no use of the term ‘childhood’ in the Latin texts, and Durose’s reading of the first Latin text as beginning ‘In iunie’ is incorrect. It actually says ‘In iuvê’ – an abbreviated form of the Latin ‘in iuventute’ (= ‘in his youth’).

But even more significant is the error behind Durose’s claim relating to the ownership of the roll. In its present form it cannot possibly have belonged to John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln, because the medallion which refers to Lincoln himself records his death in battle against Henry VII (in 1487). Even more significant, however, is that fact that the medallion which refers to Lincoln’s younger brother, Edmund de la Pole, Earl of Suffolk, records HIS execution by Henry VIII. Thus the role must date from AFTER 1513!

If you wish to verify any of the statements I have made, you can find images of the roll here: