The DNA analysis of Richard III’s remains, which helped verify his identity through the female line of descent, is now set to cast a fascinating light on his male line.
Geneticist Dr Turi King of the University of Leicester corroborated the royal identity of the skeleton found under a Leicester car park by matching a sequence of it’s mitochondrial DNA with that of 2 direct descendents of Richard III’s elder sister. One descendant wishes to remain anonymous, the other is Canadian-born Michael Ibsen, a 17th generation direct descendant of Anne of York.
Dr King is now hoping to compare Richard III’s Y chromosome DNA with descendents down the male line. A genealogical study, led by the University of Leicester’s Professor Kevin Schürer, has already found 4 living descendants of Richard III’s great-great-grandfather, John of Gaunt (who was the 3rd surviving son of Edward III). Dr King has found matches in their Y chromosome, establishing that they are all true descendants of John of Gaunt. She has also extracted enough Y chromosome DNA from Richard III’s bones to make a match with the living descendants.
She said: “A number of the men identified as descendents of Edward III through his son John of Gaunt – who would both have shared the same Y chromosome as Richard III – have been kind enough to donate their DNA to our project. The analysis of their DNA is complete and I now have a consensus Y chromosome type of these individuals. As such, this side of the work is in its early stages, and may indeed prove inconclusive, but we are hopeful that, if it’s possible to conduct a full analysis, it will provide a complete picture on both the male and female lines.”
Dr King also believes that if she could gather enough DNA from bones purported to belong to Edward V and Richard Duke of York – the two young ‘Princes in the Tower‘ allegedly murdered around 1483 on the orders of their uncle Richard III – she could establish whether the 3 sets of remains are indeed related. The bones of two small human skeletons, believed to be the remains of the Princes, were discovered by workmen in the Tower of London in 1674, supposedly wrapped in velvet rags and buried in a wooden box under the stairs of the White Tower. They were interred in Westminster Abbey in a sarcophagus designed by Sir Christopher Wren, with the Latin inscription: “These brothers being confined to the Tower of London and there stifled with pillows, were privately and meanly buried, by the order of their perfidious uncle, Richard the Usurper.”
However, the Church of England, backed by the Queen, has repeatedly refused to allow forensic tests on the bones on the grounds that it could set a precedent for testing historical theories that would lead to multiple royal disinterments. The religious authorities at Westminster Abbey, perhaps with an eye on the result of forensic testing of artefacts like the Shroud of Turin, have said that they are “not in the business of satisfying curiosity, or of certifying that remains in the abbey tombs are what they are said to be.”
In other words, they are not interested in revealing the truth.
Source: University of Leicester
***UPDATE – 2 December 2014 – Richard III’s y-DNA reveals a cuckoo in the royal nest**