Richard III makes history again

Richard III

Richard III is to make history by becoming not only the last English king to die in battle, but also the first to have his genetic code sequenced.

Scientists want to map the king's DNA before his remains and any samples taken from them are reinterred.

They hope the work will reveal information about the dead monarch's hair and eye colour, shed light on his ancestry and links to people living today, and provide more details about his susceptibility to disease.

Experts have already learned that besides being a hunchback, the king was badly infected with roundworm, a once common parasite in the UK.

A battle-scarred skeleton with a twisted spine unearthed by archaeologists from a Leicester car park was identified as that of Richard III last year.

Dr Turi King, from the University of Leicester, who is leading the gene sequencing project, said:

Scientists will also sequence the genome of one of the king's confirmed living relatives, Michael Ibsen.

The Canadian-born cabinet maker, from London, is a descendant of Richard III's sister, Anne.

Only a very small number of select individuals from history have had their genetic codes sequenced before, and none with Richard III's noble pedigree.

They include Otzi the "iceman", whose mummified 3,000-year-old remains were found in the Italian Alps, various Neanderthals, a Denisovan - an early human from Siberia, a Greenlandic Inuit and a Spanish hunter gatherer.

Press Association

Advanced techniques may make it possible to detect DNA from other organisms, including infectious bacteria, in the samples taken from Richard III's bones.

Whole genome sequencing of Otzi's remains revealed evidence of the first known human Lyme disease infection.

Results from the analysis will be made freely available to historians, scientists, and interested members of the public.

Dr Dan O'Connor, head of medical humanities at the Wellcome Trust, which is part-funding the research, said:

Scientists made the roundworm discovery after finding large numbers of the parasite's eggs in soil taken from Richard III's pelvic region.

The find suggests that the king's intestines were riddled with roundworm during his life.