Saturday Reader: King Richard’s DNA Analysis Raises Questions on Royal Lineage


British scientists say there is conclusive proof that a skeleton found under a parking lot in Leicester is that of England’s King Richard III. But the DNA testing of the remains has raised questions on the legitimacy of the bloodline of the Royal family.

Nearly 527 years after his demise, it is now assumed that Richard III was actually a blue-eyed blond and the present Queen may not be a descendant of John of Gaunt and Edward III lineage (but many of us already knew that because of the Windsors). The findings also reveal details about the king’s curved spine and the injuries that killed him. King Richard III was the last English monarch to die on a battlefield, in 1485.

For the DNA testing, five anonymous living donors, all members of the extended family of the present Duke of Beaufort, who claim descent from the Tudors through children of Gaunt, provided their DNA samples. Their samples should have matched the Y chromosomes, which were extracted from Richard III’s bones, but none did.

Richard III’s identity was proved using the mitochondrial DNA provided by two living relatives from his sister’s line of family. This means there is a break in the claimed line of Beaufort descent or as the scientists call it : ‘a false paternity event.’

It was always believed that Richard III was a dark eyed man with shoulder length black hair. DNA analysis also disapproves that theory. Scientists now believe that there is a 96% chance that he had blue eyes and 77% chance that he was blond at least in childhood.

“Richard can be likened to a missing person’s case,” said Turi King, a geneticist at the University of Leicester who led the research. “The probability that this is Richard is 99.999 percent,” she said. When King and colleagues compared the skeleton’s DNA obtained from the ground-up powder of one tooth and a leg bone to samples provided by a 14th cousin on Richard’s maternal side, they found a perfect match.

Researchers say they can’t point where on the family tree the adultery occurred, but they believe that the findings potentially raise questions about the legitimacy of Henry V, Henry VI and the entire Tudor dynasty.

Kevin Schürer, a genealogist and co-researcher at Leicester University, was guarded in his response saying, “We are not in any way indicating that Her Majesty (Elizabeth II) shouldn’t be on the throne. These things happened back then. The claims to thrones were based on more than just having royal blood. It also depended on things like battlefield victories or royal marriages.”

On the Web: King Richard III Gets a Spinal Exam and a New Grave