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 Latest DNA Results

What do the latest DNA results show?

They show that Richard III had a different Y-chromosome than his supposed living male-line relations in the modern Somerset family (illegitimate descendants of the Beauforts – legitimised descendants of the Plantagenets).

What does this prove?

It proves that somewhere between Edward III and the present day one of the mothers in one of these lines of descent had had sex with another man (not her husband or recognised lover).

There is no way of knowing whether this misdemeanour took place in Richard III’s ancestry or in the ancestry of the modern Somersets. However, the number of generations involved makes it much more likely that the misdemeanour occurred somewhere in the Somerset family tree.

Also, since the Y-chromosome results from the living Somersets revealed two DIFFERENT Y-chromosomes in what is supposed to be the same modern family, the most likely explanation is that this sexual misbehaviour was comparatively recent (C18th or C19th?).

Another possibility of course (since the Beaufort descent from the Plantagenets and the Somerset descent from the Beauforts pass through two known illegitimacies) is that either John Beaufort was not the real son of John of Gaunt or that Charles Somerset was not the real son of Henry Beaufort.

Some people have suggested that this new evidence shows that HM the Queen has no right to the throne.

But actually her (and her family’s) right to the throne is based purely on an eighteenth-century Act of Parliament (the Act of Settlement of 1701).

As for HM’s descent from medieval English royalty, she has descent via many lines, but the two most significant are

a)     Via the House of York (from Elizabeth of York, wife of Henry VII and niece of Richard III)

b)     Via the Beaufort family (ancestors of the Somersets.

While the latest DNA evidence does raise the remote possibility that one of these two lines might possibly be flawed, it can hardly be argued that BOTH lines are flawed.

The Independent: University of Leicester criticised over 'destructive tests' on remains of Richard III


In a letter to The Independent published on Wednesday, the "Looking for Richard Project" slams the “cavalier disregard of the legal process” over the university’s desire to sequence the king’s genome. The group, part of the Richard III Society, which in 2012 began the search for his remains in conjunction with the university and Leicester City council, said the tests “raise serious questions of propriety and ethics”.

The authors add: “There has been no independent verification that these tests are either ethical or necessary. Indeed, the university has, in effect, authorised itself to conduct tests that are far from essential and will add very little to our useful knowledge of England’s last Plantagenet king.”

The project’s Phillipa Langley, who led the search two years ago and co-authored the letter, also accuses the university of not honouring her contract with the University of Leicester Archaeological Services(ULAS). The letter said that “any remains positively identified as Richard III would be transferred to her as custodian to be placed in a prayerful environment to await reburial”.

Read the whole article here


LiveScience: Richard III DNA Test Sparks Controversy


"We had to work really hard to get them to do it, and yet when they found it, everything was, 'The University of Leicester has done this, the University of Leicester has done that,'" he said.

The Looking for Richard team talked with Buckingham Palace before the University of Leicester got involved and agreed that images of any remains found shouldn't be broadcast and that the remains should be treated with respect, Ashdown-Hill said. The university now claims the right to continue the scientific investigation, and has already taken additional bone samples. Even if the courts judge rules the university doesn't have legal custody of the body, they may still continue the DNA analysis, Ashdown-Hill said.

Read the whole article here