Latest Richard III Research Results

As promised, here is my round-up of the latest news on Richard III!

First up, I wanted to point to this article about how to apply to attend the Richard III services and reinterment in March 2015. Information on the balloting process is here at the Leicester Cathedral website. If any of you get in, please let us know!

Now, on to the newest results!

If you want to read the peer-reviewed research paper that the results were published in, it is available here from Nature Communications. (I was able to access the full paper from home without my university login, so I expect that everyone should be able to read it.) And here is the official press release from the University of Leicester.

The BBC has a good summary of everything in this latest round of announcements.

And the University of Leicester has a great video summary:

The tl;dr version is that:

1) The DNA tests against a second all-female line of descent confirmed the initial tests (the mitochondrial DNA matched Richard III *and* Michael Ibsen, whose mtDNA was used in the first test).

2) Looking at some parts of the genome gave a probability that Richard III had blue eyes and blond hair (at least as a child, and it may have darkened as he got older)

3) The testing of the Y-chromosome along an all-male line did not match, revealing a false-paternity event

4) A statistical analysis of all of the accumulated evidence shows a 99.999% probability that the skeleton found in 2012 is indeed Richard III.

A few comments from me –

First, these are very exciting results and once again reminded me how much I love it when science and history can work together for a better understanding of our past. That said, I was pretty annoyed that most of the articles in the press focussed on the ‘false-paternity event’ and ran with a whole lot of misleading or down-right wrong headlines – often questioning whether or not Elizabeth II is the rightful Queen (ugh!). The Y-chromosome result was very interesting, don’t get me wrong! But since we don’t even know for sure where the false-paternity event occurred it’s just another historical mystery. There were 19 possible places where the event occurred and the odds favor it happening in the 15 steps that aren’t related to the succession to the throne. And even if it did happen in a place that impacted the Tudors (another popular target in the unfortunate headlines, and related to the current Queen since she is a direct descendant of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York), Henry VII claimed the throne by right of conquest. And even that wouldn’t really impact the current Queen’s claim to the throne since there are many other factors, primarily the Act of Settlement in 1701. I know I shouldn’t be surprised at sensationalist headlines meant to get clicks and sell papers, but it is still so frustrating to see so much misinformation out there, especially when it threatens to overshadow some very exciting results (including the Y-chromosome finding). Okay, rant over. :)

Previous Richard III news round-ups:

* September 2012

* February 2013

* February 2013 round 2

Sunday Short Takes

Of course, the big story this week was the newest round of results and discoveries from the continued testing of the skeleton of Richard III. I’ll recap all of that in a separate post since there is a lot of interesting information to talk about.

From the other news of the week:

* Tudors at sea: 8 ways to survive a voyage

* Rare 17th century map of Manchester found in John Rylands Library goes on show

* Tanner Ritchie Publishing is holding its annual holiday sale, a great time to grab some downloads of primary sources.

* A Code of Conduct for Historians – a thought-provoking article from Suzannah Lipscomb for History Today

* Death at St Paul’sRichard Dale investigates the mysterious death of Richard Hunne in Lollards Tower at Old St Paul’s, one of the most notorious episodes of the English Reformation. You can learn more in an interview with the author on the History Today podcast: Murder in the Cathedral

Upcoming Books and Exhibitions for December 2014


Once again I have to start out with things that I missed from previous months!

Pirate Nation: Elizabeth I and Her Royal Sea Rovers by David Childs was released in late October in the UK and will be out early in 2015 in the US.

A new biography (maybe the first?) of Sir Henry Lee is out in the UK and is still listed as pre-order for the US (although the release date is listed as October, so I don’t know what’s happening there). Unfortunately it looks like this is a limited printing so it is “academically priced” and is quite expensive. That’s what libraries are for!

Two recent releases on Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour were released in paperback last month:

Another entry in the “possible Christmas present for people you want to bring into the Tudor history obsession” category, Richard Rex’s Tudors: The Illustrated History, out now in both the UK and US:

And Terry Breverton’s Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the Tudors but were Afraid to Ask was released in the UK back in October and will be out on December 19 in the US in print.

Tracy Borman’s biography of Thomas Cromwell that was released back in September in the UK is now out at the beginning of December in the US (moved up from a January release, it appears):

Continuing Exhibitions

* Treasures from the Royal Archives opened at Windsor Castle on May 17, 2014 and runs through January 25, 2015 and features some items from the Archives that have never been on display before.

* The Real Tudors: Kings and Queens Rediscovered display at the National Portrait Gallery opened September 12, 2014 and will run through March 1, 2015.

Sunday Short Takes

Wax figures of Henry VIII and his wives up for auction. Photo: BBC.

Sorry for the lack of news round-ups this month, I’ve been trying to cram too much catch-up stuff into the weekends lately! So here’s several weeks’ worth of stories that caught my eye:

* Madame Tussauds figures and five shops to be auctioned – Anyone want to buy wax figures of Henry VIII *and* all the wives? If I had the money (and space to put them) I’d be tempted to buy them just get the costumes. I love that dress on the Anne Boleyn figure!

* Richard III reburial fundraising appeal startsThe diocese of Leicester said it had raised £1.9m of the £2.5m cost and set a £50,000 target for the public appeal.

* Shakespeare Folio found in French libraryLibrarian and Medieval literature expert Rémy Cordonnier has discovered a rare and valuable William Shakespeare First Folio.

* Horrible Histories author reveals 10 ways to die in Elizabethan England

* Catherine of Aragon divorce letter to be auctioned in Paris

* Couple build amazing new Tudor home from scratch – learning Elizabethan carpentry, roofing and plumbing – Be sure to check out the full photo gallery!

And just for fun:

* Super Flemish – I want to make all of those dresses!

Sunday Short Takes

Yes, two blog posts in one day! I would love to say that I used my extra hour from the time change for extra productivity, but in reality I was catching up on about two weeks’ worth of not enough sleep (seriously, I can’t believe I managed to sleep nearly 10 hours in each of the last two nights, I was that tired).

* Jousting secret explains how Charles Brandon rose in the court of Henry VIII[N]ew records show how he managed to stay in favour at court – by always letting the King win at jousting.

* Richard III: First images of the vault which will house the royal remains

* Leanda de Lisle discusses Lady Jane Grey on the Distinguished Lives podcast

And finally…

* Lecture from the Ordinary Meeting of Fellows of the Society of Antiquaries of London – ‘Painting, Practice and Purpose: The “Making Art in Tudor Britain” Project at the National Portrait Gallery’, by Dr Tarnya Cooper, FSA, and Dr Charlotte Bolland.

Upcoming Books and Exhibitions for November 2014


Catching up with books that have already been released in the UK or that I missed in October:

* Digging for Richard III: The Search for the Lost King was released back in April in the UK and will be out November 11 in the US.

* Amy Licence’s The Six Wives and Many Mistresses of Henry VIII: The Women’s Stories is officially listed as November 19 for release in the US, but I believe you can already get it on Kindle.

Two books that came out in October that I missed – and both sound like they would be good presents for friends and family who have been listening to your chatter about the Tudors for years and have finally started to express interest. 😉

* Gareth Russell’s An Illustrated Introduction to the Tudors came out mid-October in both the UK and US and I totally missed it in last month’s round-up.

* Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the Tudors but were Afraid to Ask by Terry Breverton came out in October in the UK and will be out in December in the US in hardback, but is already available on Kindle.

And a few new books in November:

* A new biography of Elizabeth I entitled Elizabeth: Renaissance Prince by Lisa Hilton is due out November 13 in both the US and UK:

And finally, Bishop Richard Fox of Winchester: Architect of the Tudor Age by Clayton J. Drees is out later in November in the US and UK.

Continuing Exhibitions

* Treasures from the Royal Archives opened at Windsor Castle on May 17, 2014 and runs through January 25, 2015 and will feature some items from the Archives that have never been on display before.

* The Real Tudors: Kings and Queens Rediscovered display at the National Portrait Gallery opened September 12, 2014 and will run through March 1, 2015.

Guest Post and Give-away: Jane Seymour excerpt from Amy Licence’s “The Six Wives and Many Mistresses of Henry VIII: The Women’s Stories”

I’m happy to be hosting day 4 of Amy Licence’s blog tour for her latest work The Six Wives and Many Mistresses of Henry VIII: The Women’s Stories! More information on the book and how to be entered in a competition to win a copy are at the bottom of this post. Amy’s guest post is an excerpt on Jane Seymour from Chapter 46:

Queen Jane, 1536-7
Anne’s replacement, Jane Seymour, had led a sheltered life in the Wiltshire countryside. Her mother, Margery Wentworth, was a descendant of Edward III but she had married into a family of the minor gentry, with her husband Sir John holding various minor positions at court. Jane was her mother’s seventh child and her eldest daughter with three surviving brothers arriving before her and two sisters to follow. Her upbringing typified a traditional pre-Reformation girlhood, shying away from the sort of intellectual pursuits and European sophistication that had transformed Anne from a docile, demure country girl into a figure who could hold her own on the international stage. There is no evidence to support the claim made by the full length portrait of Jane on display at Versailles, that she was a maid of honour in the French court of Mary Tudor, as she would have been far too young: nor can it be inferred that she finished her education under Queen Claude, along with Anne and Mary Boleyn. In contrast, Jane stayed at home. Steeped in Catholicism, schooled by her mother on the virtues of wifely skills and talents, Jane was prepared to become the wife of a Knight Banneret, or similar position, just like her sister Elizabeth who had married Sir Anthony Ughtred before 1531. Chapuys described Jane as not having a “great wit, but she may have good understanding.” While Anne had broken the mould when it came to the accomplishments of her gender, Jane conformed to it perfectly.

It may have been the marriage of her younger sister in the late 1520s that had prompted Jane or her parents to send her to court, perhaps in search of a husband of her own.[2] It has been suggested that Jane had already been through a broken betrothal by the time she came to court, but in this eventuality, Henry would surely have sought legal confirmation that she was now free to marry. She was following a family precedent by travelling to London, as Margery had served Catherine of Aragon in the early days of her marriage, and this connection, as well as her father’s position as Knight of the Body, helped place her daughter in the Queen’s household. When that establishment began to fracture, dividing loyalties between those who supported Catherine and those who supported Anne, Jane would have remained firmly in the former camp, with her orthodox faith, her family connection to Catherine and the years she had seen Princess Mary growing up at court. Watching the process by which Anne became Queen, Jane witnessed an unfolding drama on which it would have been impossible for her not to have held an opinion. In 1535, when she transferred to Anne’s household, according to Jane Dormer, she had observed exactly how a mistress could make the transition to the throne and, although she shared a great-grandmother with Anne, Jane probably had little love for the Reformist and ambitious Boleyns. A conversation reported by Chapuys indicates the sort of approach favoured towards Henry and his daughter, by the woman the Ambassador came to call the “pacifier” or peacemaker:

I hear that, even before the arrest of the Concubine, the King, speaking with Mistress Jane Semel(sic) of their future marriage, the latter suggested that the Princess should be replaced in her former position; and the King told her she was a fool, and ought to solicit the advancement of the children they would have between them, and not any others. She replied that in asking for the restoration of the Princess she conceived she was seeking the rest and tranquillity of the King, herself, her future children, and the whole realm; for, without that, neither your Majesty nor this people would ever be content.

When Henry fell in love with Jane, she was in her late twenties, “of middle stature and no great beauty, so fair that one would call her rather pale than otherwise.”[3] Amid the reputedly licentious court, Chapuys wondered how Jane had managed to keep her virginity intact, but there is no gossip to connect her with any other man and there may be some truth in the Ambassador’s cynical comment that “he may make a condition in the marriage that she be a virgin, and when he has a mind to divorce her he will find enough of witnesses.” Chapuys also crudely punned on the possibility of her possessing a grand “enigmé”, usually meaning a secret or riddle, but also contemporary slang for the female genitals.[4] Yet there is no doubt that Jane’s purity and untarnished record counted in her favour. It was to preserve her from scandal that might have arisen at the time of Anne’s fall, and to “cover his affection” for her that Henry moved Jane out of the court, to Carew Manor in Beddington Park, Croydon, the family seat of Nicholas Carew. With the matter privately decided between them, Henry’s public actions were quite different, however.

Be sure to check out the rest of the tour:

Monday – Interview with Amy Licence
 at Nerdalicious
Tuesday – Henry’s relationship with Mary Boleyn at The Anne Boleyn Files
Wednesday – Henry VIII & Anne Boleyn: The Early Days at On the Tudor Trail
Thursday – You’re here!
Friday – An extract on Katherine Parr
 at The Tudor Roses
Saturday – Another interview with Amy, this time at The Tudor Enthusiast
Sunday – And the tour concludes on Amy’s own blog: His Story, Her Story

You can learn more about The Six Wives & Many Mistresses of Henry VIII: The Women’s Stories here.

If you wish to be entered in a drawing for a free copy of the book, please leave your email address on the form at this link (you will be directed back to the blog after you enter): The Six Wives and Many Mistresses of Henry VIII: The Women’s Stories give-away. I’ll close the competition at 1:00 p.m. US Central Daylight Time on Friday, October 31 and contact the winner shortly after. Good luck!

[The competition is now closed.]

Picture of the Week #303

Copernicus’ heliocentric solar system diagram. Harry Ransom Center collection, The University of Texas at Austin. Photo January 2012.

For someone like me, who works in astronomy and has a love of history, the collection at my university’s Harry Ransom Center is a joy. I’ve had multiple opportunities to see some of the great early astronomical text they have, including the one pictured above: Nicolaus Copernicus’ De revolutionibus orbium coelestium, published in 1543.

Sunday Short Takes

A mixed bag of stuff this week:

* Richard III reinterment: Details king’s final ceremonial route through Leicestershire revealed

* – This is a continuation of a story I mentioned back in 2010

And just for fun:

* Here’s What Would Have Happened If Henry VIII Had Texting

[I’ve closed the comments on this post because it was attracting a large number of spam comments that weren’t getting tagged by the spam filter. If you wish to leave a *real* comment on the post, please email me.]

Picture of the Week #301

Stained glass of the Royal Coat of Arms of England at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Photo August 2006.

This is one a many stained glass panels from England that were on display at the Philadelphia Museum of Art when I visited in the summer of 2006. This particular one is from Coombe Abbey, Warwickshire, c. 1525-1550. I didn’t get a bunch of great photos of a lot of them, but I’ll be posting some of the better ones periodically as featured pictures.

Sunday Short Takes

Just a few stories this week!

* Five Things From the Mary Rose That’ll Make You Go ‘Oooh’! – Actually, I would say these make you go “Eewwwww” more than “Oooh”!

* Choral music not heard since era of Henry VIII has been played for first time in 500 yearsChoral music not heard since the time of Henry VIII has been brought to life for the first time in 500 years. The manuscript, a book of 34 religious songs, was given to Henry VIII as a lavish gift from a French diplomat in his early reign. (Autoplay video at link)

And finally, a video from one of my favorite places:

Welcome to Westminster Abbey

Upcoming Books, Events, and Exhibitions for October 2014

So… yeah… I completely forgot to write this post last weekend to get it out before the end of the month. Whoops! And *that’s* why I have now put a reminder on my Google calendar for the 27th of every month!


Dan Jones’ The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses and the Rise of the Tudors (US title: The Wars of the Roses: The Fall of the Plantagenets and the Rise of the Tudors) was released September 4 in the UK and will be out October 14 in the US.

In new books this month, Amy Licence’s latest, The Six Wives and Many Mistresses of Henry VIII: The Women’s Stories is out at the end of the month in the UK and next month in the US.

Out at the end of the month in both the UK and US is Geoffrey Parker’s Imprudent King: A New Life of Philip II, an important figure in the Tudor story.


The Annual BBC History Weekend is Thursday October 16 through Sunday October 19 in Malmesbury. There are a number of Tudor-era historians speaking, although I think some talks may already be sold out. They often put recordings of talks from this on their podcast, so I’ll be sure to link to those on the news blog as they are posted (assuming they are).

Continuing Events and Exhibitions

* The Royal Shakespeare Company’s plays of Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies has finished the run in London, but will be moving to Broadway in the US in the spring. More details in early 2015!

* Treasures from the Royal Archives opened at Windsor Castle on May 17, 2014 and runs through January 25, 2015 and will feature some items from the Archives that have never been on display before.

* The Real Tudors: Kings and Queens Rediscovered display at the National Portrait Gallery opened September 12, 2014 and will run through March 1, 2015.

Picture of the Week #300

Outside the walls of Pembroke Castle. Photo May 2003.

Wow, I made it to 300! I figured I’d go with another photo from Pembroke Castle since that was the place in Picture of the Week #1.

I think from here I’m going to start incorporating some more photos from the broader British, Medieval, and Renaissance collection of pictures I’ve taken. I visited The Cloisters in New York in 2006 and I have a few photos from other museums I’ve been to in the US that readers might find interesting. And hopefully I’ll be back in the UK next year so I can have a whole bunch of new photos from there to use!