Richard III: Discovery and identification

DNA results

Mitochondrial DNA

The DNA results showed a perfect whole-mitochondrial genome match between Skeleton 1 of the Greyfriars site and Michael Ibsen and a single base difference (mutation) with Wendy Duldig. This was not at all unexpected given the number of generations between them and is consistent with all three of them being related in the genealogical time span.

Y chromosome

Genealogical information showed that all five living male-line relatives of Richard III were descended from Henry Somerset, the 5th Duke of Beaufort and the Y chromosome data for four out of the five male-line relatives showed a match consistent with them being related as expected. However, one of the five had a very different Y chromosome type indicating that a false-paternity had occurred within the last few generations. The Y chromosome type of the Skeleton 1 did not match any of the living male-line relatives showing that a false-paternity event (or events) had also occurred somewhere in the 19 generations between Richard III and Henry Somerset, 5th Duke of Beaufort. This was not a particularly surprising result. Work by Turi King and others has shown that historical rates of false-paternity are around 1-2% per generation. 

Is it Richard III?

The short answer is yes!

As in any missing person’s case, all the strands of evidence should be brought to bear on the case. We know that Richard III was killed, aged 32, at the Battle of Bosworth, on the 22nd of August 1485, and that after the battle he was brought back to Leicester and buried in the choir of the church of the Grey Friars in Leicester. A contemporary account speaks of him having one shoulder higher than the other. In 2012, we excavated the remains of a male, aged 30-34, with multiple battle injuries and severe scoliosis. Radiocarbon and stable isotope analysis showed that the remains dated from the right period and that this person had a high-status diet. Finally, DNA analysis of mitochondrial DNA from the skeletal remains showed a match with two living female-line relatives. While the Y chromosome analysis did not show a match, this is not particularly surprising given that we know that false-paternity can occur. We conducted a Bayesian analysis taking all the evidence together to come to a conclusion about the identify of the Skeleton 1 from the Grey Friars site in Leicester. Even at it’s most conservative, the probability of Skeleton 1 being Richard III is 99.999%. The evidence is overwhelming that we have found the remains of King Richard III.

Our expertise: Solving the 500-year-old mystery of Richard III's remains

See more about the forensic and genetic analysis of the remains

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