Are you the king’s descendant?

We are looking for people alive today who are carriers of King Edward II’s mitochondrial DNA.
Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) indelibly traces the line from mothers to their children in direct descent. The pool of direct heirs of Edward II’s mother (whose mtDNA is therefore identical to the king’s own mtDNA) can be surveyed in order to carry out genetic comparisons with the mtDNA of the remains believed to be those of Edward II, to confirm which of the two tombs, that of Gloucester, or that of Sant’Alberto di Butrio, is the true tomb of Edward II.

All of us can seize the chance to participate in the project, and look for Edward II’s mother, Eleanor of Castile, in our ancestry. Descendants are likely to be found not only in England, but also in the USA, Canada, South Africa, India, Australia, New Zealand, and quite possibly in France and other European nations and their ex colonies. Any of us may unexpectedly discover Edward II in our ancestry! Look at the posts in the Phase 3 category, or follow us on Facebook, for updates on historical women who descended from Eleanor of Castile. If they are also in your family tree, there is a chance that you carry the mtDNA we are looking for! (See also the Phase 3 blog post, DNA: Getting to the bottom of it all.)

Sei tu il discendente del re?

Siamo alla ricerca di chi, nel mondo oggi, è portatore di una specifica molecola di DNA (del tipo noto come DNA Mitocondriale) di cui un tempo era portatore anche Re Edoardo II d’Inghilterra.
I discendenti della madre del Re in linea diretta femminile (passando sempre di madre in figlia) sono tutti portatori della sua stessa molecola di DNA Mitocondriale. La molecola passa dalla madre a tutti i figli, ma solo le donne possono tramandarla.
In collaborazione con The Auramala Project, i genealogi della Family History Library di Salt Lake City, Utah, USA, stanno tracciando la linea diretta femminile dal passato verso il presente, partendo dalla madre di Edoardo II e proseguendo verso le generazioni presenti.

Con il pubblico vogliamo tracciare il percorso contrario, partendo dal presente e scoprendo generazioni sempre più antiche in linea diretta femminile. Così, la nostra ricerca e quella dei genealogi si potrebbero incontrarsi a metà strada, accorciando i tempi di ricerca e, soprattutto, coinvolgendo tante persone in questo progetto affascinante e originale.

Anche tu puoi costruire il tuo albero genealogico ‘mitocondriale’ di scavando nel tuo passato attraverso le generazioni dei tuoi antenati seguendo questa scheda.
Prova ad estenderlo indietro nel tempo il più possibile.
Tra qualche mese pubblicheremo sul blog di The Auramala Proejct le portatrici del DNA Mitocondriale del Re viventi nel XIX secolo. Potrai vedere se la tua bis o tris nonna era tra queste donne. Se così è, tu sei probabilmente un discendente del Re.

Non importa che la tua famiglia sia italiana da sempre, perché la madre di Edoardo II era Francese. Portatori della molecola del Re vivevano anche nella Francia medievale, e date le successive dominazioni Francesi in tutta Italia, è più che probabile che molti discendenti ora vivano nel nostro paese!


8 thoughts on “DNA

  1. Hello G Coldham, and thanks for the question.

    In this answer I’m assuming you mean descendants bearing Edward II’s Y chromosome.

    Just for readers who aren’t familiar with it, the Y chromosome works in pretty much the same way as mitochondrial DNA, but passes down the male line from father to son, so it behaves just like our surnames in anglo-saxon cultures. The only difference is that whilst men carry both their father’s Y chromosome and their mother’s mitochondrial DNA, women only carry their mother’s mitochondrial DNA and not their father’s Y chromosome.

    Y chromosome research is the counterpart of mitochondrial DNA research, and studies of the two are often combined to see if the relative data yielded overlaps and leads to the same conclusions. This is the work carried out by, among many others, the Semino and Torroni labs at the University of Pavia. Dr Semino analyses populations from the Y chromosome point of view, and Dr Torroni from the mitochondrial DNA point of view, and they are often then able to compare the two sets of data. It was great fun when the Semino lab revealed through Y chromosome analysis that I have an ancestor in common with Ötzi, the famous Iceman discovered in the Alps years back.

    The problem with using the Y chromosome for this particular kind of research is summed up by an old Latin legal precept: mater semper certa est, pater nunquam, in other words: the mother is always certain, the father never is. To put it bluntly, biology allows us to be certain who the mother of a child is but, to the dismay of macho men throughout history, we can never truly be certain who the father is. So whilst the Y chromosome is useful for tracking large scale demographic events in prehistory (see the various publications of Dr Ornella Semino and her many colleagues around the world) it is not so useful for drawing certain conclusions about the ancestry of individuals. So, even if a Y chromosome descendant, that is a father-son direct line descendant, did step forward, with a full family tree dating back to Edward II, or his father, or his father, etc, the historical records would not give us security that one of the many mothers involved along the way did not… Ummm, well, I don’t like to cast aspersions on the marital fidelity of people’s female ancestors, but science requires more certainty than the Y chromosome line can provide…

    Thank you very much!

    Ivan Fowler.

  2. Hmmm. You have your wires crossed here, unfortunately–. Especially in your final paragraph. It is in fact the MtDNA (maternal line DNA) which is useful for tracking anthropological and large scale demographic events. The YDNA is highly specific to agnatic genealogies e.g: spanning the past 1,000 years especially.
    You are right about illegitimacies; BUT they do not affect the immutable part of the Y-DNA signature, so I don’t think it is relevant to the argument here.
    I am not sure why you would want to cast aspersions on Y-DNA genealogical research. To the contrary, In a lot of cases, especially where there are noble & well-recorded lines–it is HIGHLY ACCURATE…and with SNP developments in the past few years has become highly differentiated and even more extremely accurate to the point where it is cracking genealogical puzzles that have been insoluble by any other method…You can obtain an opinion from any of the hundreds of proper experts such as ISOGG, or experts on Haplogroup I1 such as Dr. Ken Nordtvedt, for example
    The entire Y-DNA domain is exploding with activity and a project such as yours ought to be the foremost among those embracing such technologies, in my view; or certainly not disregarding or disparaging it—-It is at least ten years since I heard anybody talking in such a “retro” way about Y-DNA
    Consequently =-I not only beg to differ, but I totally contest and reject your out-of-date and out-of-place views,,,that are not based on the correct facts.
    Y-DNA is VERY HIGHLY useful in cases of mediaeval genealogies—–and might even be pertinent to your project. It is only a question of time, I think, before the British royal genealogies are decoded, [including the bastard lines].

    Gerard COLDHAM

    1. Dear Mr Coldham,

      Thank you for commenting once again. I’m afraid I mis-phrased the problem in the last paragraph. We are not casting any aspersions whatsoever on Y-chromosome research – far from it, among the university-based academics participating in the Auramala Project are scientists who have spent their entire working lives studying the Y-chromosome. The problem is not the certainty the y-chromosome can provide, but the certainty provided by the genealogy that must tell us who the descendants are. The risk is of finding descendants whose genealogy tells them they are y-chromosome descendants of Edward II, but who are not actual carriers of this Y-chromosome due to a Non Paternity Event, as they call it in the jargon, at some point in the family history – i.e. one of their paternal links to the king was, in fact, a bastard born in wedlock and passed off by the mother as the son of her husband. It is much safer and less risky to follow the female genealogical line, where maternity is virtually (though not utterly) certain, and therefore use mitochondrial DNA.

      If you take a look at this link, you will see that this is exactly the same technique used by the Leicester University research group who worked on the remains of Richard III, so there is nothing new or unconventional in what I’m saying. They, too, went first for the maternal line, and are only now considering the paternal line, and freely admit the risk of a non-result due to Non Paternity Events.


      Since you are passionate about the Y-chromosome and its potential, here is a link to one of the many studies carried out on large scale demographic events in prehistory, using Y-chromosome data – in this case, concerning the peopling of the Americas.


      Lastly, concerning your rather impolite and hasty assumption that there are not ‘proper experts’ participating in the Auramala Project, you may like to look at this link.


      Kind regards,

      Ivan Fowler

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    1. Hello Marie, thank you for getting in touch. Unfortunately, we do not know what Edward II’s mtDNA haplogroup is/was. In order to discover this informaiton, we need to first track down a number of living descendants of his mother, Eleanor of Castile. These descendants must be direct descendants in the mother-to-daughter line. We must establish their mtDNA haplogroup, which we can then assume to be that of Edward II, and only then will we be able to make a direct comparison. Since seven centuries have passed since Eleanor of Castile lived, the genealogy is complex and difficult to unravel, and finding just one descendant will not be enough to be sure of the haplogroup. It is best to find a number of descendants from different branches of the genealogy, in order to be absolutely sure. It is a long process, but as soon as we know the haplogroup we will publish it on our blog! Thanks once again.

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