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DNA testing on remains of Richard III could finally tell if he really was an evil King


He was the King depicted by William Shakespeare as a hunchback villain.

But now geneticists are expected to shed light on whether or not Richard III really did have a dark side. 

Scientists at Leicester University’s department of genetics have sequenced the complete genome of the last Plantagenet King.

The team is led by Professor Turi King, who in 2013 matched DNA from bones discovered under a car park in Leicester with living relatives of the monarch – confirming the remains belonged to him. 

Along with offering new insights into his health and appearance, scientists are examining potential associations of genes with personality traits, including psychopathy, narcissism and propensity to commit violence, The Times reported.

The findings could settle debate over whether Shakespeare’s negative portrayal of him had a truthful foundation, or if the King was a victim of Tudor propaganda.

Richard’s negative image also partly comes from the long-held belief that he ordered the murder of the ‘Princes in the Tower’ – King Edward V and Richard, Duke of York – in 1483.  

The princes were the sons of King Edward IV and when their father died, their uncle, King Richard III, locked them up in the Tower of London while he acted as regent.

Their disappearance and believed murder led to the greatest cold case in English history, which rumbles on to this day.

He was the King depicted by William Shakespeare as a hunchback villain. But now geneticists are expected to shed light on whether or not Richard III really did have a dark side

Scientists at Leicester University's department of genetics have sequenced the complete genome of the last Plantagenet King. His remains were discovered in a Leicester car park in 2012

Scientists at Leicester University’s department of genetics have sequenced the complete genome of the last Plantagenet King. His remains were discovered in a Leicester car park in 2012

Professor King said of Richard’s genome: ‘It’s really interesting and runs the gamut from his blood type to was he lactose intolerant to was he genetically predisposed to baldness or heart disease.’ 

The expert said analysis could also help reveal for Richard’s scoliosis – the curvature of the spine which was seen in his skeleton.

It is believed the condition accounts for Shakespeare’s depiction of him as a hunchback.

It is also hoped that Richard’s genome will give a better understanding of how Richard looked.

A 2013 facial reconstruction was based on his skeleton and cruder genetic analysis, as well as a portrait of him which is believed to be a Tudor copy of an original.

The team is led by Professor Turi King, who in 2013 matched DNA from bones discovered under a car park in Leicester with living relatives of the monarch - confirming the remains belonged to him

The team is led by Professor Turi King, who in 2013 matched DNA from bones discovered under a car park in Leicester with living relatives of the monarch – confirming the remains belonged to him

The genome could give better predictions of Richard’s possible hair and eye colour as well his skin tone and the chances of him suffering from hair loss.

The research may also reveal whether Richard carried genes which left him predisposed to aggression. 

But Professor King said that any analysis shedding light on Richard’s personality was an area of genetics which is still ‘extremely fuzzy’.

She said developments would never prove if Richard was ‘horrible’ because factors such as his upbringing and experiences would also have a significant effect on personality.

A 2013 facial reconstruction was based on his skeleton and cruder genetic analysis, as well as a portrait of him which is believed to be a Tudor copy of an original

A 2013 facial reconstruction was based on his skeleton and cruder genetic analysis, as well as a portrait of him which is believed to be a Tudor copy of an original

Richard’s remains were found in 2012 by experts who had used historic maps to  trace a friary where he was rumoured to have been buried after being killed in battle.

After only three weeks of digging at the location, now a car park in Leicester, the archaeologists found the skeleton of an adult male.

It had injuries consistent with his recorded death at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485. 

The skeleton was also found to have severe scoliosis, again backing up accepted knowledge about the monarch.  

The king was famously ridiculed by Shakespeare as ‘rudely stamp’d, deformed, unfinish’d’.   

The Leicester remains were confirmed to be Richard in 2013 after DNA was extracted and matched with two maternal relatives of the King.

Richard’s remains were then re-buried in Leicester Cathedral at a star-studded funeral after a legal challenge contesting that he should be buried in York delayed the ceremony by several months. 

The genome news comes after an expert said earlier this month that it was likely Richard did have his nephews murdered.   

Many believe Richard III had Edward, 12, and Richard, 9, killed in order to take the throne for himself.

Professor Tim Thornton of the University of Huddersfield published a study which he claims could prove the ‘Princes in the Tower’ were indeed murdered by King Richard III. 

Sir Thomas More, a trusted courtier of King Henry VIII in the early 16th century, wrote a book detailing the dark saga before he joined Henry VIII’s Privy Council, in 1518.

His is the earliest detailed account of the deaths and it unmasks two men as the murderers — Miles Forest and John Dighton — who were acting on direct orders from Richard III.

The book and its findings have been taken with scepticism by historians due to the fact Sir Thomas was five years old when the ‘Princes in the Tower’ scandal occurred.

Richard's negative image also partly comes from the long-held belief that he ordered the murder of the 'Princes in the Tower' - King Edward V and Richard, Duke of York - in 1483. The princes were the sons of King Edward IV and when their father died, their uncle, King Richard III, locked them up in the Tower of London while he acted as regent

Richard’s negative image also partly comes from the long-held belief that he ordered the murder of the ‘Princes in the Tower’ – King Edward V and Richard, Duke of York – in 1483. The princes were the sons of King Edward IV and when their father died, their uncle, King Richard III, locked them up in the Tower of London while he acted as regent 

It was believed his book and its theory may have been royal propaganda and published as a Tudor scheme to besmirch the name of the former king and boost public support for the new House.

However, Professor Thornton found evidence the alleged killer Miles Forest had two sons who became courtiers for King Henry VIII and worked alongside Sir Thomas.

Professor Thornton speculated the two sons spoke with Sir Thomas about their father’s role in the infamous regicide and told him about the role Richard III played in having the princes slaughtered.

These inside sources allowed Sir Thomas to publish his accusations against Richard.

‘This has been the greatest murder mystery in British history, because we couldn’t really rely on More as an account of what happened – until now,’ says Professor Thornton.

‘But I have shown that the sons of the chief alleged murderer were at court in Henry VIII’s England, and that they were living and working alongside Sir Thomas More.

‘He wasn’t writing about imaginary people. We now have substantial grounds for believing that the detail of More’s account of a murder is credible.’

The murder of the two children, one of whom became the monarch when his father died, has captivated public attention for more than 500 years.

They were ‘stifled with pillows by the order of their perfidious uncle Richard the Usurper’, according to the inscription on the urn their believed remains are kept in.

Their death ranks atop the list of royal misdeeds and scandals due to the rippling side-effects it had on the royal family.

Richard III: What do we know about the monarch?

Richard was born in 1452 at Fotheringhay Castle in Northamptonshire.

During the War of the Roses, Richard’s father, Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York was killed and in 1470, Richard and his brother Edward were exiled when Henry VI, from the rival house of Lancaster, took back the throne.

Henry’s reign was short-lived and during a battle the following year, Edward became king.

In 1483, Edward died and Richard was named as protector of the realm for Edward’s son and successor, the 12-year-old Edward V.

Edward V and his brother Richard were placed in the Tower of London and after a campaign to condemn the deceased king’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville, the princes were declared illegitimate.

Richard III took to the throne the following day.

He was crowned in July and in August that year, the two princes disappeared.

Rumours spread the king had killed them to remove any threat they may have posed to his reign.

In 1485, Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond launched an attack on Richard III on Bosworth Field in Leicestershire.

Many of Richard III’s key lieutenants defected and he was killed in battle. Henry Tudor took the throne as Henry VII.

It has been confirmed that Richard III had a curvature of the spine, although rumours of a withered arm haven’t been verified form the bones found in the Leicester car park in 2012.

Scientists previously discovered the king was riddled with roundworm after finding large numbers of the parasite’s eggs in soil taken from his skeleton’s pelvic region, suggested his intestines were infected.



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