Monday, December 8, 2014

The Case for Haplogroup G

While the research released last week could not prove conclusively what the Plantagenet Y Chromosome was, it did NOT say that it proved Richard was not a Plantagenet though his father's side. No matter how badly historians & writers want to spin it that way, such statements are false & misleading. Here's a spoiler alert for Phillipa Gregory's next novel: Isabella of Castille has an affair with John Holland & gets pregnant with Richard of Conisburgh. :cough: Didn't happen :cough:

The Y-Chromosome identified in Richard III's remains was Haplogroup G, specifically G2-P287+.  I admit, everything after the "G" still reads like gobbletygook to me.  However, I have learned a couple of interesting things about Haplogroup G & men who have carried it.

According to Wikipedia, Haplogroup G first appeared in the Middle East during Neolithic times &  arrived in Europe with migrations of farmers & settlers from that region.  The earliest European remains belonging to this Haplogroup have been dated to 5000-3000 B.C.E.,  & have been found in Spain, France, Bavaria, & the Italian Alps.  Although this haplogroup is widespread, it is not very common.

Looking beyond the findings of last week's report, however, there is still some strong evidence that Haplogroup G is the correct Haplogroup for the Plantagenet Dynasty.  First, there are only 3 generations separating Richard III and Edward III. Second, remains supposedly belonging to Henry IV of France & Louis XVI both were found to have belonged to men in Haplogroup G.  Since this haplogroup is rare in Western Europe, it is hard to wave off  these findings it in 3 different kings from different countries & centuries  as "coincidence."

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Let's Talk Paternity

It's been just over 24 hours since the release of "The Identification of the Remains of King Richard III" (link: ) & already the report has been misinterpreted & misunderstood, despite the very best efforts of the authors to fully explain what it was they were looking for and what they found.  I really recommend reading the report & watching the attendant videos on Youtube. These are primary sources & those should be consulted & cited before any news article in the media, especially ones that shout    "Richard was Illegitimate" should be. (By the way, he was not.)

The report cited above also has a nice chart that shows the paternal descent from Edward III, as well as descent from Cecily Neville along the female line.  The research along Cecily's line was used to prove the theory of John Ashdown-Hill, which disproves the allegations that the University thought little of his work.  The chart can be viewed here:

The above chart leaves out Margaret Beaufort's connection to Edward III (it was not relevant to the research at hand), but this chart does include her, as well as Joan Beaufort, & is worth reviewing, if only to keep the various branches of the Plantagenet family tree straight:

As for breaks in the Y-Chromosome chain, those could have happened at any point along the way. For all we know, there was a break in the Y-Chromosome between Henry II & Edward III. But for the sake of this blog (& our sanity), let's presume there was no break between these two kings.  Where else could this "non-paternity event" have occurred?  Listed below are, in my opinion, the top likely places:

#1.  John Beaufort: Son of Katherine Roet & John of Gaunt, according to history.  However, John's birth is given as occurring between 1371 & 1373.  Katherine's first husband, Hugh Swynford, died sometime between those years as well. It is possible that Katherine was pregnant by her first husband & didn't know it. John Beaufort was Margaret Beaufort's father.

If, however, John Beaufort was the son of John of Gaunt, then the Tudors were descended from the Plantagenets via Margaret Beaufort, the mother of Henry Tudor.  The break in the Y-Chromosome would have happened at a later date. What is needed is better documentation on when Hugh Swynford died & when John Beaufort was born.  In order to completely exclude Hugh Swynford as the presumed father (he was, after all, married to Katherine), John Beaufort's date of birth must be after August/September 1372.

#2 Richard of Conisburgh (Richard III's paternal grandfather): rumors of the time suggested he was fathered by John Holland, with whom his mother, Isabella of Castille, had a scandalous affair.  He was not mentioned in his father's or his brother's wills.  However, because Richard III's Y-Chromosome has strong connections to France, it is unlikely that it was inherited through Holland.  The Holland family appears in England in the early 13th Century & has no known paternal links to France.

These are just possible places where the break  between Richard III & the Somersets could have occurred.  In order to prove or disprove these theories, further testing needs to be done. Since that would lead to more tomb raiding, I just don't see that happening, so I guess the search for the Plantagenet Y Chromosome ends here.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Paternity v. Seniority

With the news breaking today regarding the Plantagenet DNA, it seems that people are already confusing paternity with seniority. While both of these concepts come into play regarding inheritance (in this case, the throne of England), they are not the same thing.

One of the things that researchers had hoped to discover was the elusive Plantagenet Y-Chromosome.  This chromosome can only be passed down from father to son. (Conversely, the mtDNA is passed from a mother to all of her children, but only her daughters will pass it along to their children. See )

In order to determine conclusively what the Y-chromosome for the Plantagenets was, there needed to be a genetic match between the DNA of Richard III & that of the male descendants of John Beaufort, the 1st Earl of Somerset, the son of John of Gaunt.  Unfortunately, there was no match.  When & where the break (or breaks) in the line occurred are a mystery & I'm sure they will be the source of endless speculation.  I'm already doing some preliminary research in this area.

While Richard III was also a descendant of John of Gaunt, it was through one of his daughters, Joan, so he would not have inherited the Plantagenet Y Chromosome that way.  The most recent common male ancestor for Richard and John of Gaunt was Edward III, as Richard is a direct descendant along the male line from Edward III's fifth son, Edmund of Langley. 

Seniority, on the other hand, determines which child (or sibling) had the right to inherit the throne.  Until quite recently, the throne was passed by right of primogeniture, meaning the eldest son (or brother, if the King had no children) became the next King.  All sons (or brothers) had precedence over all daughters (or sisters), regardless of their age.  This explains why Edward VI became King after Henry VIII died & not Henry's oldest child, Mary.  If the King had no sons, then his eldest daughter would become Queen, which is exactly what happened when Edward VI died. 

Applying seniority to the case of the Yorks & Lancasters, this means that Richard's family had seniority over the Lancastrians, even though their claim was through Anne Mortimer, who was the great-granddaughter of Lionel of Antwerp, third son of Edward III.  In contrast, the Lancastrian Kings (and later, the Beauforts) were descendants of the fourth son of Edward III, John of Gaunt.

I hope this explanation was helpful. I tried to make it as clear as I could, but as always, when you're so related to yourself that you could be your own grandfather, things tend to get complicated & frustrating. But that's what makes genealogy fun!

I Told You So

Ok, I admit, that's really a message for Michael Hicks, but  news out of Leicester today indicates that the DNA recovered from Skeleton 1 proves that the remains located under the car park were those of Richard III. You read it here first, though:

There is other, more interesting news, though, concerning the Y chromosome that is passed through the male line. Apparently, there the connection between Richard III and those descendants of Edward III who were previously identified as Plantagents has been broken by one or more instances of "non-paternity."

It will take some time to sort through all of this, but I do intend to write about this too within the next few days.

But oh, how I love being able to say 'I TOLD YOU SO!"