There is “overwhelming evidence” that a skeleton discovered in the city of Leicester in 2012 is that of Richard III. The research also raises questions about the nobility of some of his successors to the English throne.
The team of researchers, including Dr Turi King and Professor Kevin Schürer from the University of Leicester, have published their findings online today in the journal Nature Communications.
The researchers collected DNA from living relatives of Richard III and analysed several genetic markers, including the complete mitochondrial genomes, inherited through the maternal line, and Y-chromosomal markers, inherited through the paternal line, from both the skeletal remains and the living relatives. Their analysis shows that DNA passed down on the maternal side matches that of living relatives, but genetic information passed down on the male side does not.
Dr King commented, “Our paper covers all the genetic and genealogical analysis involved in the identification of the remains of Skeleton 1 from the Greyfriars site in Leicester and is the first to draw together all the strands of evidence to come to a conclusion about the identity of those remains. Even with our highly conservative analysis, the evidence is overwhelming that these are indeed the remains of King Richard III, thereby closing an over 500 year old missing person’s case.”
Professor Schürer added, “The combination of evidence confirms the remains as those of Richard III. Especially important is the triangulation of the maternal line descendants. The break in the Y-chromosome line is not overly surprising given the incidence of non-paternity, but does pose interesting speculative questions over succession as a result.”
While researchers weren’t able to say where on the family tree the adultery occurred, they said the findings potentially raise questions about the legitimacy of Henry V, Henry VI and the entire Tudor dynasty, including Henry VIII and Elizabeth I.
The researchers also used genetic markers to determine hair and eye colour of Richard III and found that with probably blond hair and almost certainly blue eyes Richard III looked most similar to his depiction in one of the earliest portraits of him that survived, that in the Society of Antiquaries in London.
The research team now plans to sequence the complete genome of Richard III to learn more about the last English king to die in battle.
Click here to read the article Identification of the remains of King Richard III from Nature Communications.