Richard III’s Y-DNA reveals a cuckoo in the royal nest

Richard III’s Y-DNA reveals a cuckoo in the royal nest

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The long-awaited analysis of Richard III’s Y-DNA has thrown up an unexpected issue with the royal male line in the Kingdom of England.



It isn’t continuous.  An adulterous affair, known in the genealogy business as a ‘false-paternity event’, broke the paternal chain.  Four modern-day male Beaufort descendants of Edward III (Richard III’s great-great grandfather) were found to belong to Y-haplogroup R1b-U152.  Richard III belonged to haplogroup G-P287.

R1b is common throughout western Europe, with R1b-U152 having frequency hotspots in France and southern England.  Haplogroup G has a wide distribution throughout Europe and Asia, but is most found most frequently today in the Caucasus region by the Black Sea.  It is rare in the British Isles, apart from a curiously high pocket of concentration in Wales.

It’s not clear where in the royal family tree the ‘indiscretion’ happened, but if it falsifies the paternity of Edward III’s son John of Gaunt (1340 – 1399), or his grandson Henry IV (1366 – 1413), then it supplants the royal blood of some of England’s most notable kings, including the Tudor dynasty.

The truth will never be known without digging up more dead kings, something that the current Queen is dead against.

The DNA analysis also revealed another interesting snippet about Richard III.  He was most likely a blue-eyed blond.  His blond hair in childhood may have  darkened into adulthood, meaning that the earliest known portrait of Richard, which hangs in the Society of Antiquities in London (see featured image), is probably the closest representation of the King.  There are no surviving contemporary portraits of Richard – the portrait in the Society of Antiquities was painted around 1520, 35 years after his death, but is thought to be based on a lost original.

The full results of the DNA analysis can be seen here.

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