for the mitochondrial DNA of Richard III
The work carried out at
the University of Leicester in 2012 and 2013 by Dr. Turi King on the DNA of a
skeleton discovered in the choir area of the destroyed Greyfriars friary in
Leicester proved that the skeleton was that of King Richard III, the last king
of England of the Plantagenet dynasty. The type of DNA used was that of
mitochondrial DNA which is passed down the female line. A mother gives it to
all her children, male and female, but it is the female children who pass it on
to the next generation.
Richard III left had
one legitimate son and two illegitimate children but none of these left
descendants. Researchers at Leicester therefore had to find another female of
the Plantagenet family who was close to Richard III and who left female
descendants. Anne of York, elder sister of Richard III, fitted the bill and
left female descendants with at least two descendants alive in 2013, Michael
Ibsen and Wendy Duldig. These two descendants provided DNA samples which
matched each other, and that of the skeleton in the car park, Richard III. But
where did this mitochondrial DNA come from?
King Richard III
ancestors of Richard III
King Richard III was
the twelfth child of Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York
(1411-1460) and Cecily Neville (1415-1495). Richard inherited his mitochondrial
DNA from his mother, Cecily Neville as did all his other brothers and sisters.
The sister who had the necessary modern descendants was Anne of York, second
child of Richard Plantagenet and Cecily Neville. Anne of York was born on 10th
August 1439 and married twice, first to Henry Holland, 3rd Duke of
Exeter and secondly to Thomas St. Leger. The second marriage produced an only
child, Anne St. Leger, later wife of George Manners, 11th Baron de
Ros and mother of Catherine Manners.
January 1476 Anne of York died after giving birth to Anne St. Leger. Thus if
Anne St. Leger was a boy the mitochondrial DNA need in 2012 would have stopped
in 1476 as boys cannot pass it on to their descendants. Anne St. Leger married
Sir Robert Constable and was the mother of Barbara Constable and Everhilda
Constable, the two ancestors of Michael Ibsen and Wendy Duldig respectively.
As said, Richard III
and Anne of York received their mitochondrial DNA from their mother Cecily
Neville. Cecily Neville was on 3rd May 1415 as a daughter of Ralph
Neville, 1st Earl of Westmorland, and his wife Joan Beaufort. In 1424, when
Cecily was nine years old, she was betrothed by her father to his
thirteen-year-old ward, Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York. Ralph Neville
died in October 1425, bequeathing the wardship of Richard to his widow, Joan
Beaufort. By October 1429 Cecily and Richard were married.
Their first son, Henry
of York was born in February 1441 but died young. Their second son, Edward
(born 22nd April 1442) went on to become King Edward IV of England.
Cecily Neville and Richard Plantagenet then had another six boys, the last of
whom was the future Richard III, King of England. In total, Cecily Neville and
Richard Plantagenet had thirteen children. All thirteen children received their
mitochondrial DNA from their mother, Cecily Neville and she inherited it from
her mother, Joan Beaufort.
Joan Beaufort was the only
daughter of the four illegitimate children of John of Gaunt, 1st Duke
of Lancaster (fourth son of King Edward III), and his mistress, later wife,
Katherine Swynford. In 1390 her cousin, Richard II, privately declared the four
children as legitimate. In January 1396 John of Gaunt married Katherine
Swynford after the death of his second wife in 1394. In 1397 the four children
were declared legitimate by an Act of Parliament.
In 1391 at the age of
twelve Joan Beaufort married her first husband Robert Ferrers, 5th
Baron Botiller of Wem and left two daughters and co-heirs, Elizabeth
(1393-1434) and Margery (1394-1458) before he died in 1395. Elizabeth Ferrers
married (c.1407) John de Greystoke and left issue while Margery married her
stepbrother, Sir Ralph Neville, son of Ralph Neville, 1st earl of
Westmorland and also left issue.
In February 1397, at
Beaufort castle, Joan Beaufort married Ralph Neville, 1st earl of
Westmorland as his second wife. They had nine sons and five daughters. The
mitochondrial DNA that Joan Beaufort inherited from her mother, Katherine
Swynford, was passed to all her children. The DNA inherited by her sons ended
with their deaths but it continued in her daughters descendants. Of the five
daughters, the eldest, Joan Neville became a nun while the second daughter, Katherine
Neville married four times, firstly, in 1411, to John Mowbray, 2nd Duke
of Norfolk (one son), secondly to Sir Thomas Strangways, thirdly to John
Beaumont, 1st Viscount Beaumont, fourthly to Sir John Woodville (son
of Earl Rivers).
The third daughter, Eleanor
Neville (1398–1472), married firstly to Richard le Despencer, 4th
Baron Burghersh (no issue), secondly to Henry Percy, 2nd Earl of
Northumberland (seven sons and three daughters with female descendants);
while the fourth daughter, Anne Neville (1414–1480), married firstly to
Humphrey Stafford, 1st Duke of Buckingham (six sons and four
daughters with female descendants),
secondly to Walter Blount, 1st Baron Mountjoy (four sons and two
The mitochondrial DNA of Joan Beaufort would pass down the female descendants
of her children and thus a female descendant may be living today of her
daughters and if so would have the same mitochondrial DNA as King Richard III.
The fifth daughter of
Joan Beaufort was Cecily Neville (1415–1495), and she married Richard
Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York and was the mother of King Edward IV
and King Richard III.
When Ralph Neville died
in 1425 the vast bulk of his estate should have gone to the eldest son by his
first wife but Joan Beaufort was too strong of a personality and had powerful
royal connections to back up her claims. Thus she took a substantial part of
the Neville estate for her own use and for the inheritance of her children.
Joan Beaufort was the
only daughter of Katherine Swynford and thus inherited the mitochondrial DNA of
King Richard III from her. In turn Katherine Swynford was the youngest daughter
of Sir Payn Roet and an unknown woman. Katherine Swynford was born about 1350
and in 1367 married Sir Hugh Swynford (1340-1372) of
Coleby, Lincolnshire. The couple had one child, a son called Thomas, born in
1368. Thomas Swynford served in the retinue of Henry, Earl of Derby (afterwards
Henry IV), as early as 1382. Thomas Swynford was left one hundred marks by John
of Gaunt in his will. He supported Henry IV on his accession to the throne, and
was one of the guardians of Richard II. In 1402 Thomas Swynford was sheriff of
Lincoln and in 1404 he was captain of Calais for his half-brother, John Beaufort.
Thomas Swynford had
inherited lands in Hainault from his mother, and, being unable to establish
this claim through the doubts cast on his birth, obtained a declaration of
legitimacy from Henry IV in October 1411. He died in 1433, leaving two sons,
Thomas (1406–1465) and William.
Sir Hugh Swynford had
served with John of Gaunt in Gascony and this connection brought Katherine
Swynford into the company of the Duke. Katherine Swynford became governess to
the daughters of John of Gaunt, Philippa and Elizabeth. After the death of
John's first wife Blanche in 1369, Katherine and John began a love affair which
would bring forth four children born out of wedlock and would endure as a
lifelong relationship. The eldest child, John Beaufort, Earl of Somerset, was
possibly born in about 1372. The four children (John, Earl of Somerset, Henry,
Bishop of Winchester, Thomas, Earl of Exeter and Joan) took Beaufort from their father's castle of that name in Anjou. Their relationship continued
even after 1371 when John of Gaunt took Constance, elder daughter of Peter the
Cruel of Castile and Leon as his second wife.
The St. Albans
chronicler asserts that the open manner in which the Duke lived with Katherine
Swynford caused much scandal in the early part of Richard II's reign. The
scandal was just more ammunition for those who opposed John of Gaunt as he was
one of the most unpopular members of the government and was a prime target of
the rioters in the Peasant’s Revolt of 1381. But in that year John of Gaunt repented
of his conduct and withdrew from her company. Katherine Swynford and her
daughter Joan Beaufort were afterwards in the household of Mary de Bohun, the
wife of Henry of Lancaster.
Constance of Castile
died in 1394 and in January 1396 John of Gaunt married Katherine Swynford. Katherine
Swynford died at Lincoln on 10 May 1403, and was buried in the choir of the
As said, Katherine
Swynford was the youngest daughter of Sir Payn Roet and an unknown woman. Payn
de Roet took his name from Roeulx, or Le Rœulx, a town about 8 miles north-east
of Mons in the County of Hainaut. It is suggested that Payn de Roet was a
member of a collateral line of the last lord of Roeulx, descendants of the
Counts of Hainault. Payn de Roet may have come to England as part of the retinue
of Philippa of Hainaut in 1327 when she came to marry the young Edward III. Yet
his name does not appear in the official list of knights who accompanied the
queen from Hainaut.
Whenever Payn de Roet
came to England he was soon seen by the King and Queen and was considered a
person of standing. King Edward III granted Payn de Roet the title of Guyenne
King of Arms for the territory of Guyenne (Aquitaine) which was then under
English control. In 1347, Payn de Roet was sent to the siege of Calais as one
of two knights deputed by Queen Philippa to conduct out of town the citizens
whom she had saved (the so-called Burghers of Calais).
The lost tomb of Payn de Roet by Stephen Dickson
By 1349 Sir Payn de
Roet had returned to his lands in Hainaut. Later he went to serve the queen’s
sister, Marguerite, when she was Empress of Germany. Sir Payn de Roet died in
Ghent in 1380 and his tomb was constructed in the old St. Paul’s Cathedral,
Sir Payn de Roet had
three daughters, Philippa, Isabel (also called Elizabeth) de Roet, and
Katherine and a son, Walter. Isabel was to become Canoness of the convent of
St. Waudru at Mons in Hainaut. In 1366 Philippa married the poet Geoffrey
Chaucer. They met while still children when they were attached to the household
of Elizabeth de Burgh, 4th Countess of Ulster. The youngest daughter
Katherine married Hugh Swynford and later John of Gaunt and passed her
mitochondrial DNA to King Richard III and his collateral descendants.
The wife of Sir Payn de
Roet, from whom the mitochondrial DNA of Richard III came from, is unknown. We
are not even told her name or if she was from England or had come over from
Hainault. As the children of Payn de Roet appear to have been born in the 1340s
it is possible that his wife was English but this is not totally certain.
ancestors of the mitochondrial DNA of Richard III
Without a name for the
wife of Payn de Roet we can’t trace any further ancestors for the mitochondrial
DNA of King Richard III. It may happen someday that a person with no known
connections to King Richard III, will have a minor accident in a car park, and their mitochondrial DNA may turn out to be the same as the
last Plantagenet king. If the ancestors of this person could be traced, they may
bypass the unknown wife of Payn de Roet and provide the name of a mitochondrial
ancestor further back in time.