Groundbreaking genetic research shows the male descent line between Richard III and Henry Somerset, 5th Duke of Beaufort, was broken several times, and the king had a fairer complexion than was previously believed.
The findings shed light on the fact that royal inheritance does not always stick to a linear path, the University of Leicester reported. Scientists are still unsure of exactly when this break occurred.
"Now if - and it is a very big IF - the break in the chain is one of those five, between John of Gaunt and Richard III, historians could ask questions - theoretically - about the inheritance of a number of the Plantagenet monarchs. And since Henry Tudor's mother was also a Beaufort descended from John of Gaunt, there is a question here too," professor Kevin Schurer said. "However, statistically speaking, the break is far more likely to have occurred in the larger part of the chain which does not affect any of the different Royal lines of succession at all."
Researchers believe infidelity is the most likely explanation for the straying genes. This could have occurred anywhere within the generations separating the king from the duke, who died in 1803 and whose living descendants have provided DNA samples for the purpose of scientific research, the BBC reported.
The investigation focused on the Y chromosome, which is passed from father to son; most of the 5th Duke of Beaufort's living relatives carry a common Y chromosome type that differed from what was seen in the genetic makeup of Richard III.
Researchers said the findings do not necessarily suggest the present-day royal family is illegitimate.
"Royal succession isn't straightforward inheritance from fathers to sons,[ and] daughters. History has taken a series of twists and turns," Schurer told the BBC.
The research was conducted on remains found in a car park, which researchers are 99.999 percent positive belong to Richard III, who perished in the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, CNN reported.
Genetic findings also suggest Richard III was fair-haired and had piercing blue eyes, which contradicts historical images portraying him as having darker features. All of these known works are believed to post-date his death by about three decades.
The findings were published in a recent edition of the journal Nature Communications.