On the Matter of King Richard III’s Genome

Countdown: 27 days to go to King Richard III’s reinterment.

A year ago today, the Richard III Society issued a statement on the sequencing of the genome of King Richard III’s DNA by the University of Leicester. People have been divided on the research being done in part as small parts of Richard’s skeleton were removed and destroyed in order to create the DNA profile.

So much has come out about Richard’s body and lifestyle since the discovery of his remains in 2012 and the subsequent study of his DNA. There was the matter of his roundworms (an all-too-common affliction back then); his drinking habits (that’s nothing!); his diet (anyone for swan or egret?); his appearance (likely blond and blue-eyed): the probable degree of his scoliosis (Dominic Smee proves Richard’s detractors wrong); how Richard died (piteously slain and murdered); and, most recently, the discovery of infidelity in his — or someone else’s — family tree (the course of true love never did run smooth).

All of these discoveries due to the research on his remains and his grave have made King Richard III seem more human and more real. These scientific conclusions have also confirmed and discounted some beliefs about Richard and — as is always in the case of research — opened up new questions about the long dead king.

As the Society wrote a year ago, “There are many arguments for and against further testing but it should be remembered that, according to its aims, the Richard III Society is ‘to promote in every possible way research into the life and times of Richard III’. It is our responsibility to uphold this aim and to secure a reassessment of his life and reputation.”

Now if we could just get our mitts on those bones in Westminster Abbey!

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