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Not a Straight Line

Further genetic analysis of Britain's King Richard III, whose body was uncovered underneath a Leicester parking lot in 2012, has uncovered a second instance of false paternity, the Guardian reports. It adds that this revelation could call the legitimacy of the entire House of Plantagenet line into question.

Previous analysis of Richard III's genome, published in Nature Communications in December by Leicester University's Turi King and her colleagues, found that his mitochondrial genome matched that of a living relative. However, his Y chromosome did not match those of five modern descendants of Henry Somerset, who was descended from Edward III, Richard III's great-great-grandfather. This, the researchers said, could indicate a false paternity event in the intervening generations.

King and her colleagues announced at the Science Museum in London yesterday that there was likely another break in the male line, according to the Guardian. They compared Richard III's DNA to that of a living, male-line descendent of Geoffrey, Count of Anjou, who was an ancestor of Edward III.

The Y chromosome from this modern relative of Geoffrey, Count of Anjou, didn't match either the descendants of Henry Somerset or Richard III.

"[S]omewhere along the line there's been another false paternity event," King tells the Guardian. "It's opened up the mystery even further."

The false paternity rate for any given generation is about 1 percent to 2 percent, and King tells LiveScience that its occurrence isn't surprising.

The break, the Guardian says, likely occurred somewhere in the 22 generations that separated Geoffrey, Count of Anjou, from his living descendent. But if it didn't, the paper adds, "the consequences for the monarchy's history become far more intriguing."

"If that turned out to be the case, and this is pure speculation, then there must have been a break between the Count of Anjou and Richard III," says Kevin Schürer, a genealogist at Leicester. "Which means that before we raise questions about the legitimacy of the Yorkist kings and the Lancastrian kings, there are questions higher up the line, raising doubts about nearly all of the Plantagenets."

King adds that these findings have no impact on the modern monarchy.

Richard III was re-interred today in Leicester.

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