This time, the subject is Edward II and the investigator is Kathryn Warner, his most recent biographer:
Like Richard III, Edward II was reportedly buried in a prominent position – the high altar of Gloucester Cathedral. Although Kathryn Warner doesn’t believe that he died in Berkeley Castle in September 1327, she is seeking his female line relatives to prove it either way because mitochondrial DNA is so reliable and has found a few of his nieces who may be of use, one line already stretching to the eighteenth century so far. Also like Richard, Edward has been plagued by demonstrably absurd denialist myths.
The Auramala Project, as this is now known, has involved some in the interesting city of Pavia – in this case a tomb at the .http://www.eremosantalbertodibutrio.it/index.php?lang=en that is the alternative location for Edward’s remains. I wonder how close it is to the Basilica of San Pietro in Ciel d’Oro where Richard’s nephew, Lord Richard de la Pole, was buried in 1524-5 and is still supposed to be?
There is, of course, a second possible method. Richard’s own Y-chromosome is now recorded, as have several descendants of an early Duke of Beaufort. Although his Y-chromosome differs from theirs (and one of theirs from the others), all are thought to descend from Edward II and thus should be identical to him in this respect.
Just to return to the rules:
1) Find some records of the burial.
2) Find a bearer of identical mtDNA – and a Y-chromosome sharer if convenient.
3) Describe the deceased in terms of age, height, build, era, diet and other factors.
4) If an individual turns up in the right place who is a DNA match and a physical match, you have probably found your target.
5) Eliminate all other DNA matches if possible, as in Appendix 1 of Ashdown-Hill’s “The Mythology of Richard III”, although someone like Hicks will still claim that the remains could belong to “anyone”.
If the DNA process can be carried out for Richard III (b.1452) then Edward II (b.1284) should be possible and easier than Stephen (b.c.1096 and apparently in Faversham), Henry I (b.c.1068, being sought in Reading) or Alfred (b.c.849, a fragment found in Winchester). We will follow this Project with interest.
If Edward II really escaped, became a monk and died in Italy, who died in England in so cruel way? Brrrrr…..
Thanks for blogging this, Stephen!
Kalina, the red-hot poker story is a myth, fortunately – an often-repeated one, but a myth, Thank goodness!
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We have another post coming up that may interest you. Have you seen p.44 of the latest JA-H?
Sorry, my knowledge of English history is far from perfection . Is it a myth that Edward II (or someone other in the place of King) was murdered cruelly in a prison?
Well, since Richard III’s Y chromosome doesn’t match either of the Somerset Y chromosomes and they don’t match each other, clearly it’s impossible for all of them to match Edward’s! One of them may match it – but if none of those three match Edward’s chromosome, that again doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not Edward II; it may again mean a case (or multiple cases) of false paternity somewhere along the line.
There’s, for instance, a theory that Richard’s grandfather Richard Connisburgh, Earl of Cambridge, was fathered by John Holland, Duke of Exeter, rather than Edmund Langley. It’s still an open possibility. If it’s confirmed to be Edward II through various means (including mitochondrial DNA) and Richard III’s Y chromosome is identical to his, then we’ll know it’s not true.
Richard III is only four generations down from Edward III (five from II). The Duke of Beaufort in question was about eighteen generations down. The probability of a “milkman” having intervened between Edward and Richard is 4/(4+18) ie 18% but from Edward to that Duke is 18/(4+18) ie 82% – see our post on 3 December last year (“From the horse’s mouth”).
There is a Y-chromosome donor on the Continent who is an illegitimate Plantagenet (“Three or four Y-chromosomes).
So a straight line from Edward II to Richard III is most likely.
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Yes, I know that. But nothing about the statistical probabilities *proves* that there was no false paternity between Edward III and Richard III. It may as well been there instead of somewhere in the other 15 generations from Edward III to Henry, 5th Duke of Beaufort. Or there could have been more than one false paternity case.