Richard III's DNA - The complete story

Richard III’s DNA

The chronology and contexts of John Ashdown-Hill’s discovery of Richard III’s mtDNA sequence, and of John’s research on the Plantagenet Y-chromosome and on the mtDNA of the ‘Princes in the Tower’


25-27 September

Centre Européen d’Etudes Bourgignonnes 44th annual conference at Mechelen, commemorating the 500th anniversary of the death of Richard III’s sister, Margaret, Duchess of Burgundy. Belgian colleagues asked John Ashdown-Hill to find an mtDNA sequence for Richard III and his siblings in connection with possible bones of Margaret, which had been found in Belgium.



John traced a living mtDNA line to Joy Brown (Ibsen), in Canada.


Joy Ibsen agreed to give a sample to be analysed initially by Oxford Ancestors, but requested that until / unless she gave permission, details of her mtDNA sequence should not be published.


Joy’s sample was sent to Oxford Ancestors, together with a consent letter allowing them to reveal the results to John Ashdown-Hill, and for him to forward them to colleagues in Belgium. The work was designated by Oxford Ancestors as ‘Special Project R13251’.

11 August

Joy Ibsen acknowledged receipt of her mtDNA sequence results (haplogroup J) from Oxford Ancestors.

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Portraits of the female descendents of Anne of York

In John's search for the DNA of Richard III (2003-2004), he traced a line from Anne of York to Joy Ibsen. Some of the faces of the women in between have been preserved for history. Click on an image below to enlarge it and find out about each of the ladies.

For further information about the family tree please read The Last Days of Richard III by John Ashdown-Hill.

mt DNA and the 'Princes'


The mtDNA of the so-called 'Princes in the Tower' (King Edward V and his brother, Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York) should be identical to that of their female-line niece, Mary Tudor, Queen of France and Duchess of Suffolk.

Several locks of Mary Tudor's hair were cut off when her tomb was opened in the 18th century. One lock of Mary's hair is preserved in Moyses Hall Museum, Bury St Edmunds. The museum authorities gave permission for a few strands of this hair to be tested for mtDNA, but sadly it proved impossible to open the Bury St Edmunds locket, which had been soldered to seal it.

Later, John located a second locket containing a very well preserved lock of Mary Tudor's hair. The owners kindly gave John some strands of the hair, and an attempt was made to determine the mtDNA sequence, but so far this has not proved successful.

John also researched the female-line descendants of Jacquette de St Pol, Duchess of Bedford and Countess Rivers (the maternal grandmother of the princes). All her female line descendants should have mtDNA identical to that of the 'Princes'. However, it has not been possible to find any all female-line living descendants of this family.