King Richard III: DNA and Genealogical Study: False Paternity

Posted by pt91 at Dec 02, 2014 04:05 PM |
Statement by Professor Kevin Schürer and Dr Turi King

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 2 December 2014

Watch a video on Richard III and the Break in the Male Line:

The genetics and genealogy research led by the University of Leicester, and published in Nature Communications, discovered that the male line of descent is broken at one or more points in the line between Richard III and Henry Somerset, 5th Duke of Beaufort (1744-1803).

This provides scientific evidence for the first time of a possible question mark over medieval lines of succession in the monarchy.

Critically, there is no evidence whatsoever on when the break occurred, however, it is statistically far more likely that the break in the male line occurred  lower down the chain – and therefore not affecting any Royal lineage – including that of the present day.

Historically Royal succession has taken a number of twists and turns over the centuries and is not based on straight linear inheritance. However, the research does pose a question mark over where the break might have occurred- and the potential implications for the historical monarchy.

Professor Kevin Schürer said: “There are one or more breaks in the chain from Richard III to Henry 5th Duke of Beaufort. There are 19 links in that chain, so there is an equal probability of any one of those 19 being broken. From a historical view point, where the break occurred has differential consequences.

“There are five links in that chain between Richard, up through Edward, and then to John of Gaunt. And then the remaining majority of the links are down through the Somersets and the Beaufort line.

“Now if - and it is a very big IF - the break in the chain is one of those five, between John of Gaunt and Richard III, historians could ask questions – theoretically - about the inheritance of a number of the Plantagenet monarchs. And since Henry Tudor’s mother was also a Beaufort descended from John of Gaunt, there is a question here too.

“However, statistically speaking, the break is far more likely to have occurred in the larger part of the chain which does not affect any of the different Royal lines of succession at all.”

Professor Schürer, who is the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research at the University of Leicester, said “there was absolutely no evidence that a link in the Royal chain of succession had actually been broken.”

Dr Turi King said: “The fact that we do not find a match between the living male-line relatives and the skeletal remains is not at all surprising to me.  We knew from work that I, and others, have carried out in the past that the incidence of false-paternity, where the biological father is not the supposed father, is historically in the region of 1-2% per generation.  Even using a conservative rate, we knew there was a ~16% chance of finding there would be a false-paternity in this chain.”

The University of Leicester was the principal funder of the research.  Dr King’s post is part-funded by The Wellcome Trust and the Leverhulme Trust.

  • The Dig for Richard III was led by the University of Leicester, working with Leicester City Council and in association with the Richard III Society.  The originator of the Search project was Philippa Langley of the Richard III Society
  • ‘Identification of the remains of King Richard III’ in Nature Communications, DOI: 10.1038/ncomms6631


About the Wellcome Trust
The Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation dedicated to improving health. We provide more than £700 million a year to support bright minds in science, the humanities and the social sciences, as well as education, public engagement and the application of research to medicine.

About the Leverhulme Trust
The Leverhulme Trust was established by the Will of William Hesketh Lever, the founder of Lever Brothers. Since 1925 the Trust has provided grants and scholarships for research and education; today it is one of the largest all-subject providers of research funding in the UK, distributing over £60 million a year.

Notes to editors:

Access to background information, images and multimedia for the DNA and genealogical work can be requested here:

Previous information and multimedia from the Search for Richard III:


Richard III – The DNA Analysis & Conclusion (12:34)

Richard III and the Break in the Male Line (4:21)

Richard III – Hair and Eye Colour (0:56)

Is the Skeleton Found in Leicester Richard III? (1:29)

The Arched Framed Portrait of Richard III – Society of Antiquaries of London (1:58)

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