The University of Leicester have announced  that they have uncovered ‘new truths’ about King Richard III’s Plantagenet lineage in Identification of the remains of King Richard III.

What do the latest DNA results show?

They show that Richard III had a different Y-chromosome than his supposed living male-line relations in the modern Somerset family – illegitimate descendants of the Beauforts and legitimised descendants of the Plantagenets.

What does this prove?

It proves that somewhere between Edward III and the present day one of the mothers in one of these lines of descent had had sex with another man – not her husband or recognised lover.

There is no way of knowing whether this misdemeanour took place in Richard III’s ancestry or in the ancestry of the modern Somersets. However, the number of generations involved makes it much more likely that the misdemeanour occurred somewhere in the Somerset family tree.

Also, since the Y-chromosome results from the living Somersets revealed two different Y-chromosomes in what is supposed to be the same modern family, the most likely explanation is that this sexual misbehaviour was comparatively recent, possibly 18th or 19th century.

Another possibility of course, since the Beaufort descent from the Plantagenets and the Somerset descent from the Beauforts pass through two known illegitimacies, is that either John Beaufort was not the real son of John of Gaunt or that Charles Somerset was not the real son of Henry Beaufort.

Some people have suggested that this new evidence shows that HM the Queen has no right to the throne.

But actually her (and her family’s) right to the throne is based purely on an eighteenth-century Act of Parliament, the Act of Settlement of 1701.

As for HM’s descent from medieval English royalty, she has descent via many lines, but the two most significant are

a) Via the House of York (from Elizabeth of York, wife of Henry VII and niece of Richard III)
b) Via the Beaufort family (ancestors of the Somersets) from Henry VII.

While the latest DNA evidence does raise the remote possibility that one of these two lines might possibly be flawed, it can hardly be argued that both lines are flawed.

JAH-Feb-2014-b.PNGDr. John Ashdown Hill

I am a freelance historian; historical researcher; writer and lecturer. I am a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, and a member of the Society of Genealogists, the Richard III Society,the Centre Europeen d’Etudes Bourguignonnes, and have recently been elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London

My doctoral research was centred upon the client network of John Howard Duke of Norfolk in North Essex and South Suffolk. Since 1997 I have regularly given historical talks, and published historical research, achieving a certain reputation in aspects of late medieval history. I was the leader of genealogical research and historical adviser on the ‘Looking for Richard‘ project, which led to the rediscovery of the remains of Richard III in August 2012. My Richard III work demonstrates, I believe, that I have a special interest in controversial topics, and a talent for taking a fresh approach, which can sometimes lead to significant new discoveries.
I have currently had five history books and numerous historical research articles published. My sixth book – The Third Plantagenet, a study of George, Duke of Clarence, is due out in March 2014. Due out in 2015 is The Dublin King, the true story of Edward, Earl of Warwick, Lambert Simnel and the Princes in the Tower. My latest book Royal Marriage Secrets recently received an excellent review in The Spectator. As a result of my work on the Richard III project I participated in British, Continental and Canadian TV documentaries on the search for Richard III. Subsequently I have also participated in a general historical documentary on the life of Richard III for the USA, and interest has been expressed in the possibility of further TV work based on two of my books.

You can visit me at and my Facebook page.

Visit the Looking for Richard website.

11 Responses

  1. jasmine

    It is not surprising that the media have picked up on the royal angle and completely ignored the more likely case that the break occurred in the Somerset line, and as John Ashdown-Hill suggests, occurred in the eighteenth or nineteenth century.

  2. Jen

    at last someone has answered my questions. I was dubious about the sensationalist a headlines and couldn’t see in the articles I have read where the break occurred and what DNA they used as a comparison.

  3. alison

    thanks for cutting through all the scientific stuff and putting it nice and clearly for us laymen. It would be harder to accept that there had been no break in the line when you look at the length of time, but it does seem more likely to have been an eighteenth/nineteenth century ‘blip’. Thank you so much.

  4. Steven Layton

    Would it be possible to make a direct comparison of DNA from the remains of Richard Duke of York and Richard III (as well as Edward IV)? I suppose there would need to be a better reason than mere curiosity to justify such a thing.

  5. Olga Hughes

    I like how the DNA results went from ‘having’ blonde hair, to ‘possibly’ had blond hair to ‘might have had blonde had as a child’.
    I see the “Identification of the remains of King Richard III” is also following the latest trend – in the absence of actual new information, accuse a woman of infidelity.

    • jasmine

      Well, to be fair, if there was a ‘false paternity event’ some woman (and man) would have been unfaithful. It would also be compounded by the fact that the woman in question passed off the child as being someone else’s.

      • Olga Hughes

        They have not got a shred of evidence that it happened between John of Gaunt time and Richard III’s time.

  6. jasmine

    It is extremely unlikely that the power that be would allow the exhumation of a variety of royal corpses simply to find out where the ‘false paternity event’ took place. There is a strong Christian tradition that the dead rest in peace.

    • Olga Hughes

      There should be a tradition born of simple common sense for not disturbing the dead so people can crow about alleged scandals.

  7. Royce

    “Also, since the Y-chromosome results from the living Somersets revealed two different Y-chromosomes in what is supposed to be the same modern family, the most likely explanation is that this sexual misbehaviour was comparatively recent, possibly 18th or 19th century.”

    This is incorrect. Obviously, the “odd man out” did have a recent false paternity in his family tree. But four of the five living Somersets had the same Y chromosome, which must be the Y chromosome of their common ancestor, who was born in 1744. This Y chromosome does not match Richard III either, which means that another false paternity must have occurred (in either the Somerset line or the Richard line) BEFORE 1744.


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