When it comes to determining if you’re British royalty, it pays to not let your DNA get left stranded. That’s the problem facing Richard III, or more precisely, the experts questioning whether the remains found under a parking lot in Leicester, England, are from the heroic king or some brave but lesser-known relative.
The University of Leicester’s 2013 declared DNA match between the remains and a descendant on the king’s maternal side is being contested by Michael Hicks, head of the history department at Winchester University and archaeologist Martin Biddle, emeritus fellow of medieval archaeology at the University of Oxford. Hicks says the radiocarbon dating of the remains only narrows them down to a time period that could span as many as 80 years. He points out that the king’s maternal grandmother, Joan Beaufort, had 16 children and many of them and their descendents fought and died like Richard III during the War of the Roses or the previous Hundred Years War.
Professor Biddle says the Franciscan friary where the remains were found was open for three centuries and little is known about who else was buried there. He’s calling for a coroner’s court to be established to analyze all of the evidence.
While the University of Leicester team agrees that the radiocarbon dating is imprecise, the closeness of the DNA to a known descendant coupled with the spinal curvature of the remains – Richard II known to have a hunch – makes them confident that the evidence is more than coincidental.
What kind of proof would convince Professor Hicks?
You would need to compare the DNA with Richard’s brother King Edward IV at Windsor. At present there is no chance of that.
Someone should tell Queen Elizabeth II to never go anywhere without a coin in her pocket.