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by Oxford Ancestors, but requested that until / unless she gave permission, details of her mtDNA sequence should not be published.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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Alive and Well in Canada - The DNA of Richard III

In 2003, in a quest to help identify possible remains of Margaret of York, Duchess of Burgundy, John Ashdown-Hill began a search for a living individual who carries Margaret's mitochondrial DNA - and that of her brothers, King Edward IV and King Richard III.

A living descendant of Margaret and Richard's eldest sister, Anne of York, Duchess of Exeter, was finally located in Canada, whose DNA is currently being used in an attempt to identify to remains found in Leicester as those of Richard III.

An attempt is also under way to identify the mtDNA sequence of the 'Princes in the Tower'.

Margaret of York's coat of Arms

Margaret of York's coat of Arms