Just in case succession of the British throne wasn’t already confusing enough, it just became a bit more complicated. In 2012 a skeleton, believed to be King Richard III, was found buried beneath a parking lot in Leicester, England. In order to prove that the remains belonged to Richard III, scientists performed a DNA test that would decisively confirm whether or not the skeletal remains matched the DNA of his descendants.
Results revealed that the remains did, in fact, match Richard III’s maternal descendants, but not the DNA of his royal paternal descendants. Scientists however, still believe the skeleton is that of Richard III’s. Dr. Turi King of Leicester University, who led the study, was quoted by the BBC as saying, “If you put all the data together, the evidence is overwhelming that these are the remains of Richard III.”
While scientists are confident in their findings, we now can’t help but ask, “Was there a break in the royal blood line?” Century old rumors of illegitimacy have plagued the royal bloodline, sullying the reputations of figures like John the Gaunt, the son of Edward III. Scientists and historians are unable to say with certainty when this particular infidelity occurred, but if it was traced back to Edward III (1312 – 1377), the great–great grandfather of Richard III, it could potentially bring into question a large part of England’s history.
The House of Plantagenet, which Edward III belonged to, included two rival house branches. A series of ongoing conflicts between the House of York and the House of Lancaster created what is known as the Wars of the Roses. Like Richard III (House of York), Henry Tudor, who was aligned with the House of Lancaster, was a descendant of Edward III. One could argue that if Henry Tudor did not have royal ancestry connecting to Edward III he would not have been able to obtain the Lancastrian support needed to defeat Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth, where Richard III was killed. Richard III’s death not only put an end to the Wars of the Roses, but also allowed Henry VII to claim the throne and begin the Tudors’ reign of the monarchy. To put it simply, the Tudor dynasty may have never existed.
Many of us know history based on what scholars and historians tell us, and rightfully so. Historians spend countless hours uncovering and studying the events that preceded us. But the beauty of history is that in many parts of the world we can travel back in time and stand where kings stood and where battles were fought. History isn’t something that we should just read about, but experience and reflect upon up-close.