Blond or dark? The decoding of Richard’s DNA….

Blond Richard...Dark Richard

Was Richard blond? Or was he dark-haired? Professor Hofreiter explains in the article below.


  1. The thing is, Turi King, who of course also worked on Richard’s genome, does not believe he was blond as an adult and tbh neither do I. Dna shows the genes as you would have inherited them, and can give an idea what MIGHT be expressed; it cannot predict exactly if and how those genes will be expressed.
    Even if your dna shows 95% blond (and Richard’s was nowhere near that high) you still have a 5% of being something else anyway. Red and black hair is the easiest to correctly identify, blond the least because of its tendency to be masked by melanin and darkened with age.
    However, I have even known red heads who appear to have no clear red haired gene present when tested (under 5% chance) despite this being a very distinctive marker. And a man who was, along with his brothers, blond…but their dna said all of them only had a 10% chance of being blond–nearly three times less chance that I have, and I, though blond till 5, ended up dark brown.
    Then of course there is another matter…where does blond end and brown begin? There is a whole crossover area there; most fairer haired people are not white blond ‘Nordics.’
    They did not paint people dark-haired in Richard’s era to present them as ‘evil.’ I don’t know where the idea he was visualised as dark eyed came from either–his eyes are clearly light in the oldest portraits. The oldest light haired portrait is the ‘broken sword’ which is later still (and still not what I’d call blond) and seems to have been based on the Coventry tapestry (blond-ish.) The blue eyes are undoubtably correct because again that is a distinctive marker (again, cannot tell you the exact shade of blue and still could be grey as I don’t believe that is considered seperately.)
    In modern testing of course people can agree or disagree with the findings of their dna results. Richard, being dead, cannot!
    (If you take my own results literally, I should have lighter brown hair (with nearly a 1 in 3 chance of being blond), greenish grey eyes with a few brown spots, wavy hair and be slightly shorter than average. I actually have dark brown hair, hazel brown eyes with green rings, mildly wavy hair and am just over average female height.)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I have no idea what’s in my DNA since it’s never been analyzed, but I know that my hair, which is dark brown, was reddish blond when I was a small child – I’ve got lots of photos taken when I was 4, and everyone is always surprised to see how light-haired I was. I was brown-haired by the time I was going to school, but some 2/3 of my class were blond children in the first grade… and then, a few years later, over half of them had brown hair. I’ve always known that hair darkens with age, and I don’t understand why the media seem unaware of that fact. And indeed, often it’s hard to classify where ‘blond’ stops and ‘brown’ begins, or where exactly brown becomes ‘dark’. If Richard had a blond ‘marker’ in his DNA, or was blond as a child, that certainly doesn’t mean that he looked like Ken doll as adult!

      Everything we know – including the contemporary and near-contemporary portraits – suggests that Edward and Richard, and probably George as well, all had brown hair. For some reason, historical novelists at some point invented blond Edward and dark Richard (and sometimes also blond George), maybe because it fit with their respective person and the stereotypes we associate with hair colors. It didn’t have anything to do with making Richard look evil, since I don’t believe that any Tudor historians ever made any remarks about his coloring. (Maybe because his and Edward’s coloring was pretty common, very fair or very dark hair that novelists like to give them may have merited a comment, but medium brown hair would not.) In fact, I’ve mostly encountered the black-haired, tanned Richard who is “the dark one in a fair family” in historical fiction that’s sympathetic to Richard. And now the media have decided to go into the other extreme; if Richard was not tanned with black hair, he must have been blond like a Ken doll. Because there’s nothing in between.
      (However, I can’t even think of any novels that portray Richard with brown eyes? I have no idea why anyone would be surprised by Richard having blue eyes.)

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Thank you hoodedman 1. I was born a very blonde baby, and stayed golden blonde until I reached puberty, at which point it darkened but was still definitely blonde. Very fair skin to go with it. I always wanted to be ‘ash’ blonde, but it doesn’t matter what hair colour is applied, it brings out shades of red. My father was blond with blue-eyes from Dorset, and my mother was brunette with turquoise-hazel eyes from South Wales. I have green-grey eyes that are nothing like either of them. So heavens know what’s far back in my DNA. Red hair, for certain. And yes, I’ve dyed it red before now, and it looks ‘right’ for me.

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    1. The genetics of eye color are apparently now believed to be more complicated than it was previously thought. For starters, there is more than one pair of genes that determines the eye color.

      I have dark brown eyes, which is not surprising, because my father had dark brown eyes, as did my maternal grandmother and maternal uncles. However, it’s interesting that my mother had light hazel eyes – she claimed they were green, but I always replied: “They don’t look green to me at all… they look kinda yellowish” – while her mother had dark brown and her father blue eyes.


      1. I have, as mentioned, hazel brown eyes–the light brown is the dominant colour but with strong olive green rings and possibly a bit of grey. My father’s eyes were grey-blue, my mother hazel also…but much more green that mine. In fact the projected colour of my eyes by dna looks like a perfect combo of both my parent’s eyes; however, in reality my eyes are much more brown than the projections. Weirdly, I have NO brown gene at all, but I do have a blue one; it is a series of genes that produce melanin that have made my eyes brown. (Maybe this is why they seem to be lightening with age, decreased melanin–I don’t know!) 3 out of my 4 grandparents had light eyes, and one dark brown (I take after the brown eyed ancestor in colouring and face structure too.) My blond (and wavy) genes are from my dad’s side, he had mid-brown hair but his brother and sister were blonds.
        As for Richard’s colouring in fiction, I am pretty sure Ms Gregory made him both dark haired and brown/hazel eyed.
        Michael Hicks in his nastiness during the reinterment also said something like ‘It can’t be Richard as everyone knows he had black hair and brown eyes,’ which was pretty unbelievable coming from the self styled ‘world’s authority.’

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I didn’t know that about Gregory, after watching The White Queen I tried to read Kingmaker’s Daughter to see if Anne Neville’s characterization makes any more sense in the books than in the series, but gave up rather quickly when I realized that not only everything seemed the same and with no more depth, but her 14-year old Anne voice was the same as 7-year old Anne. I remember Richard being described as dark, but I don’t remember if his eyes were described. In Sharon Kay Penman’s and Rhoda Edwards’ novels, Richard is also dark, but he doesn’t have brown eyes, in fact in The Sunne In Splendour his grey blue eyes are mentioned a lot. Penman is so historically accurate in everything else, I don’t know why she gets the coloring wrong – Edward IV is blond and blue-eyed in that book, Elizabeth of York is blond (she’s also blond in Rhoda Edward’s Some Touch of Pity, and Anne Neville has brown hair for some reason)…


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