1. A skeleton excavated from beneath a carpark in 2012 is almost certainly that of the English king, Richard III (1452 – 1485).
2. mtDNA (which is passed from mother to child) extracted from the skeleton matches mtDNA taken from descendants of Richard’s sister Anne of York. However Y-DNA (which is passed from father to son) extracted from the skeleton apparently doesn’t match Y-DNA taken from descendants of Henry Somerset the 5th Duke of Beaufort, who according to history descended from Richard’s 2nd great grand father Edward III (1312 – 1377).
3. The implication according to geneticists, and the media, is that there is a “false paternity event” somewhere between Edward and the Somersets. The authors of the study maintain that this is “unremarkable”, but the false paternity events don’t end there, for only 4 of these 5 Somerset descendants actually match each other.
4. And it turns out that there is more, for although the patrilineal line of a Frenchman named Patrice de Warren traces back to Richard III through the illegitimate son of Edward III’s 4th great grandfather, Geoffrey Plantagenet, Count of Anjou (1113 – 1151), de Warren’s Y-DNA doesn’t match that of Richard III or any of the Somersets.
5. In the immortal words of the antagonist of Ian Fleming’s Goldfinger: “Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time it’s enemy action.”
6. A similar and more anomalous case involving ancient DNA concerns the presumed Y – DNA of Louis XVI (1754-1793). Y – DNA was successfully extracted from a cloth supposedly bloodied at the time of Louis’ s beheading, and belongs – like that of Richard III – to haplogroup G2a.
7. Both Y-DNA and mtDNA were extracted from a mummified head presumed to be that of Louis’s XVI’s great grandfather Henry IV (1553-1610). 5 Y-DNA markers were recovered -an insufficient number to determine a haplogroup- but Charlier et al. concluded in 2013 that the blood and the head belonged with high probability to a man and a recent patrilineal ancestor.
8. But the Y-DNA of 3 living members of the House of Bourbon belongs -like 4 of the 5 living Plantagenets- to R1b.
9. In the light of the results of testing several living members of the House of Bourbon, this seems to imply that there are at least 2 false paternity events – Henry IV cannot have been the biological father of Louis XIII, and there is a false paternity event between Louis, Grand Dauphin, and Louis XVI.
10. The difficulty becomes even more pronounced when mtDNA extracted from the head is considered. This belongs to haplogroup U, but Henry IV was maternally related to Louis XVII, through his mother Jeanne d’Albret over Anna of Habsburg to Marie-Antoinette, and tests performed on a lock of her hair, and on her son’s heart, show that Marie-Antoinette’s mtDNA belongs to haplogroup H.
11. This calls for an extraordinary “false MATERNITY event.”
12. What we have here are a group of incompatible premises: (1) presumed identification of ancient remains; (2) presumed Y-DNA mutation rates; and (3) presumed relatives of the deceased.
13. In the one case (3) is abandoned for the sake of consistency, and in the other it is (1) that is abandoned. But no one is considering that the source of the inconsistency is the presumption contained in (2) rather than that contained in (3) or (1). The following figures depict the difference between the assumption that DNA mutation rates are line-like, constant and smooth, and an alternative conception according to which they are wave-like and decrease erratically in the direction of the future. By reference to the latter, can be make perfect sense of the Plantagenet and Bourbon DNA results: