DNA analysis of Richard III brings up questions about royal legitimacy – The Week Magazine

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DNA testing has positively identified the bones found under an English parking lot as belonging to King Richard III — and also called into question the legitimacy of some royals.

It’s been 527 years since Richard III died, and this is the first genetic identification of a person so long after their death, National Geographic reports. Scientists looked at the mitochondrial DNA, which is inherited along maternal lines, and the Y chromosome, inherited along paternal lines. They found there was a 95 percent chance he had blue eyes and a 66 percent chance he had brown hair as a child, and his Y chromosome was uncommon for someone in an English family.

Because Richard III died without any male heirs, researchers had to trace his lineage to find a male ancestor with the same Y chromosome and any of that ancestor’s descendants living today. They found five men paternally descended from Richard III’s great uncle, John of Gaunt. These men should have inherited the same Y chromosome as Richard III through an ancestor who died in 1803, the fifth Duke of Beaufort. Upon testing, it was found that no one had the same Y chromosome as Richard III, and just four were descended from the duke.

If there was a false paternity — “when someone’s father is not who we think is their father” — in John of Gaunt’s family, it could mean that Plantagenet kings like Henry V did not have a genetic claim to the throne. “This would also hold true, indirectly, for the entire Tudor line,” the study’s authors said. Don’t worry about Queen Elizabeth II’s legitimacy, though, as she is descended from a different line.

  Catherine Garcia


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