England's King Richard III identified with DNA

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Richard III DNA Questions Royal Family's Legitimacy

LONDON (AP) - Scientists say there is "overwhelming evidence" that a skeleton found under a parking lot is that of England's King Richard III, but their DNA testing also has raised questions about the nobility of some of his royal successors.

The bones of the 15th-century king were dug up in the city of Leicester in 2012, and experts have published initial data suggesting they belong to Richard, including an analysis of his curved spine and the injuries that killed him.

Richard was the last English monarch to die on a battlefield, in 1485.

In the new study - probably the oldest forensic case ever solved - scientists compared DNA from the skeleton to living relatives and analyzed DNA data identifying eye and hair color, which they matched to the earliest known portrait of the king.

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King Richard III identified with DNA
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England's King Richard III identified with DNA
FILE - In this undated file image made available Monday Feb. 4, 2013, by the University of Leicester, England, showing the mortal remains of Britain's King Richard III, found underneath a car park in Leicester after being declared missing for around 500 years. Scientists at the University of Leicester, have carried out scans and according to a new analysis of the medieval king’s skeleton released Friday May 30, 2014, the King's long fabled kinked spine actually had a "well balanced curve" that could have been concealed under clothes or armour, unlike the exaggerated hunchback which Shakespeare depicted as "deformed, unfinished, sent before time into this breathing world, scarce half made up". In reality scientist say his head and neck would have been straight, not tilted to one side, and there was also no evidence that he had a limp. (AP Photo/ University of Leicester)
Embargoed to 0001 Friday May 30 --- In this undated image issued Friday May 30, 2014, by Britain's University of Leicester, showing a series of images of a turning 3-Dimensional model, showing the kink in the spine of Britain's King Richard III, which has been created by scientists. In new analysis of the medieval king’s skeleton released Friday May 30, 2014, scientists who carried out scans of the King's long fabled kinked spine found it had a "well balanced curve" that could have been concealed under clothes or armour, unlike the exaggerated hunchback which Shakespeare depicted as "deformed, unfinished, sent before time into this breathing world, scarce half made up". In reality scientist say his head and neck would have been straight, not tilted to one side, and there was also no evidence that he had a limp. (AP Photo / University of Leicester)
Undated photo made available by the University of Leicester, England, Monday Feb. 4 2013 of the remains found underneath a car park last September at the Grey Friars excavation in Leicester, which have been declared Monday "beyond reasonable doubt" to be the long lost remains of England's King Richard III, missing for 500 years. Richard was immortalized in a play by Shakespeare as a hunchbacked usurper who left a trail of bodies — including those of his two young nephews, murdered in the Tower of London — on his way to the throne. (AP Photo/ University of Leicester)
FILE- This is an undated file photo released by the University of Leicester, England, showing a portrait of Britain's King Richard II who's skeletal remains were found underneath a car park in Leicester, England, in September 2012, after being missing for around 500 years. According to research published Tuesday Dec. 2, 2014, in the Nature Communications journal, scientists compared the skeleton’s DNA to predict eye and hair color of the long lost king. However samples from living relatives found no matches, a discovery that could throw the nobility of some royal descendants into question, including Henry V, Henry VI and the entire Tudor royal dynasty. But Kevin Schurer, pro vice-chancellor of the University of Leicester, said England’s current royal family does not claim Richard III as a relative and shouldn’t be worried about the legitimacy of their royal line. (AP Photo/Society Of Antiquities Of London via University of Leicester, FILE)
FILE- This is an undated file photo released Tuesday Dec. 2, 2014, by the University of Leicester, England, showing the scull remains found as part of the skeletal remains found underneath a car park in Leicester, England, in September 2012, which has been declared "beyond reasonable doubt" to be the long lost remains of England's King Richard III, missing for over 500 years. According to research published Tuesday Dec. 2, 2014, in the Nature Communications journal, scientists compared the skeleton’s DNA to samples from living relatives but found no matches, a discovery that could throw the nobility of some royal descendants into question, including Henry V, Henry VI and the entire Tudor royal dynasty. But Kevin Schurer, pro vice-chancellor of the University of Leicester, said England’s current royal family does not claim Richard III as a relative and shouldn’t be worried about the legitimacy of their royal line. (AP Photo/University of Leicester, FILE)
Undated photo made available by the University of Leicester, England, Monday Feb. 4 2013 of remains found underneath a car park last September at the Grey Friars excavation in Leicester, which have been declared Monday "beyond reasonable doubt" to be the long lost remains of England's King Richard III, missing for 500 years. Richard was immortalized in a play by Shakespeare as a hunchbacked usurper who left a trail of bodies — including those of his two young nephews, murdered in the Tower of London — on his way to the throne. (AP Photo/ University of Leicester)
Map locates Leicester, England. Scientist find remains of King Richard III
portrait King Richard III, Leicester Cathedral, Leicester, England, UK
Richard III of England (1452-1485) on engraving from 1830. King of England during 1483-1485.
Bosworth Battlefield, near Hinckley, Leicestershire, UK. 18th Aug, 2013. The Wars of the Roses Federation re-enact the 528th Anniversary of the Battle of Bosworth (22nd August 1485) King Richard III watches the battle prior to his defeat when he lost the throne of England to Henry Tudor. He was the last English king to die in Battle. This battle was the last significant battle in the Wars of the Roses a civil war between the houses of York and Lancaster © eye35/Alamy Live News
Guide booklets about King Richard the Third displayed inside Leicester Cathedral.
A stone inside Leicester Cathedral acknowledging that King Richard the Third maybe be buried nearby.
Stone marking the spot where King Richard III fell, Bosworth Field, Leicestershire. Artist: Graham Easby
A portrait of King Richard the Third inside Leicester Cathedral.
A road sign in City Centre, Leicester.
Descendants of Richard III, nephew 16 times removed Michael Ibsen, left, and his brother Jeff Ibsen, right, and niece 18 times removed Wendy Duldig place white roses on a coffin bearing the remains of Richard III outside the Fielding Johnson Building at the University of Leicester in preparation for his reinterment at Leicester Cathedral, Leicester, England, Sunday, March 22, 2015. The remains of King Richard III were discovered in 2012 in the foundations of Greyfriars Church, Leicester, 500 years after he was killed in the Battle of Bosworth Field. Richard III’s casket will lie inside Leicester Cathedral for public viewing for three days until 26 March when he will be reinterred during a service. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)
Descendants of Richard III, nephew 16 times removed Michael Ibsen, left, and his brother Jeff Ibsen, right, and niece 18 times removed Wendy Duldig place white roses on a coffin bearing the remains of Richard III outside the Fielding Johnson Building at the University of Leicester in preparation for his reinterment at Leicester Cathedral, Leicester, England, Sunday, March 22, 2015. The remains of King Richard III were discovered in 2012 in the foundations of Greyfriars Church, Leicester, 500 years after he was killed in the Battle of Bosworth Field. Richard III’s casket will lie inside Leicester Cathedral for public viewing for three days until 26 March when he will be reinterred during a service. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)
Dignitaries place white roses on a coffin bearing the remains of Richard III outside the Fielding Johnson Building at the University of Leicester in preparation for his reinterment at Leicester Cathedral, Leicester, England, Sunday, March 22, 2015. The remains of King Richard III were discovered in 2012 in the foundations of Greyfriars Church, Leicester, 500 years after he was killed in the Battle of Bosworth Field. Richard III’s casket will lie inside Leicester Cathedral for public viewing for three days until 26 March when he will be reinterred during a service. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)
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"The probability that this is Richard is 99.999 percent," said Turi King, a geneticist at the University of Leicester who led the research. When she and colleagues compared the skeleton's DNA obtained from the ground-up powder of one tooth and a leg bone to samples provided by a 14th cousin on Richard's maternal side, they found a perfect match.

Based on the skeleton's DNA, King and colleagues hypothesized that Richard had blue eyes and blond hair in childhood, which darkened with age. With no contemporary paintings of the king available, they compared their findings to the earliest known painting of him, which depicts the monarch with light brown hair and blue eyes, painted about 25 years after his death.

The research was published Tuesday in the journal, Nature Communications.

Scientists also compared the skeleton's DNA to samples from living relatives on Richard's father's side. They found no match, a discovery that could throw the nobility of some royals into question.

While researchers weren't able to say where on the family tree the adultery occurred, they said the findings potentially raise questions about the legitimacy of Henry V, Henry VI and the entire Tudor dynasty, including Henry VIII and Elizabeth I.

Still, Kevin Schurer, pro vice chancellor of the University of Leicester and another study author, said claims to the throne are based on more than simply having royal blood and also rest on other things such as battlefield victories and royal marriages.

He said England's current royal family - which has a line of descent from the House of Tudor - should not be worried. "We are not in any way indicating that Her Majesty (Elizabeth II) shouldn't be on the throne," Schurer said.

Researchers said it was the first time there was scientific evidence that questioned medieval lines of succession in the monarchy.

Other academics said history is littered with claims and counter-claims of royal legitimacy.

"When Richard took the throne, he said his brother Edward should never have been king because he was illegitimate," said Steven Gunn, a tutor in history at Oxford University.

Gunn said it was unlikely anyone would ever learn the truth behind the most damaging rumors about Richard - that he murdered his young nephews to hang onto his crown. Still, Gunn said, a more complex picture of the king is now emerging.

"This opens up a new posthumous discussion about Richard's legacy," the historian said. "He has been misrepresented as just a king with scoliosis."

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Online:

www.nature.com

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Associated Press writer Jill Lawless in London contributed.

See more about the new finding:
DNA Proves Car Park Remains Are Richard III, Scientists Say

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