The World's Oldest Forensic Case Has Closed With DNA Identification Of Richard III

A portrait of Richard III held by the Society of Antiquaries in London.

The world’s oldest forensic case has now closed with the publication of the the DNA analysis of the remains of Richard III.

The results provide overwhelming evidence that the skeleton is that of the English King, written about in the play Richard III by William Shakespeare.

At 529 years since his death, this is the oldest DNA identification of a known individual.

The findings are published online in the prestigious peer-reviewed journal Nature Communications.

The scientists explain their investigation:

The researchers collected DNA from living relatives of Richard III and analysed several genetic markers, including the complete mitochondrial genomes, inherited through the maternal line, and Y-chromosomal markers, inherited through the paternal line.

Genetic markers were also used to determine hair and eye colour.

Richard III probably had blond hair and almost certainly blue eyes, which would make the King look similar to his depiction in one of the earliest portraits of him surviving.

Dr Turi King of the University of Leicester says the research draws together all the genetic and genealogical analysis involved in the identification of the remains of the skeleton.

“Even with our highly conservative analysis, the evidence is overwhelming that these are indeed the remains of King Richard III, thereby closing an over 500 year old missing person’s case,” Dr King says.

The research team now plans to sequence the complete genome to learn more about the last English king to die in battle.

The last of the Plantagenet dynasty died at the Battle of Bosworth Field and was buried at Grey Friars in Leicester.

In September 2012, a skeleton matching the expected profile of Richard III was excavated at the presumed site of the friary.

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