It's Complicated

The Sex Life of King Richard III's Randy Great Great Great Grandfather

If the Queen did cheat, her crimes fade into insignificance compared to the extensive philandering engaged in by medieval monarchs.

Neil Hall/Reuters

DNA analysis on the mortal remains of Richard III has concluded that there was likely at least one “false paternity event” in his ancestral history, leading to speculation that a king may have been cuckolded. The discovery could potentially undermine either Richard III’s claim to the throne or that of Henry VII – and, in the latter case, the entire Tudor dynasty.

The analysis shows that the cheating happened somewhere along the male line as far back as the reign of Edward III.There are dozens of men who may have been cuckolded, but, based on long standing historical rumors, speculation is now focusing on claims that either Richard, Earl of Cambridge was not the biological son of Edmund, Duke of York (which would make Richard III himself an illegitimate king, as he was the grandson of Richard Cambridge) or possibly, and more sensationally, King Edward III (who ruled from 1327 – 1377) was cuckolded, and his heir John of Gaunt was actually another man’s son. If that is so, then the Tudor's claim to the throne through John of Gaunt (Henry VII, the founder of the Tudor dynasty, claimed that his royal blood came from John of Gaunt) is brought into question.Still with me? Good. This is what passes for small talk in English drawing rooms.If the King’s wife really did sleep with another man, however, her supposed crimes fade into insignificance compared to the extensive philandering engaged in by the noble men and Kings of medieval times. However, if a queen did have an affair she was taking a massive risk; Queens could be punished with death for cheating (see Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard) although naturally no such penalties applied to cheating Kings.The Royalist has had cause before to reference the work, “Sex Lives of The Kings and Queens of England” by Nigel Cawthorne, and it is to its masterful pages that we once again refer for much of the following information.If Edward III’s wife did cheat on him, she can hardly be accused of doing more than getting her own back. Edward had one of British history's most notorious mistresses.Edward III, the son of Edward II (the gay king who was murdered by having a red hot poker forced into his rectum by outraged barons) had what might be best described as a troubled upbringing. His mother, Isabella of France, wore widow’s weeds for over two years in protest at her husband taking male lovers, and fled to her native France where she reputedly took Lord Mortimer – chief of the British dissidents who led the ultimately successful campaign against her husband – as her own lover.Edward III (the King about whom the current speculation is centered, do keep up at the back there) was installed on the throne at sixteen after the murder of his father, but semed not to be grateful to the dissidents who had put him there. He promptly had his mother’s lover Mortimer put to death.Quite what Freud would have made of this murderous muddle we can only guess.Edward III was an immensely popular monarch who did much to get Britain back on a stable path after the chaos of his father's reign. He had eight legitimate children with his wife Queen Phillippa – including John of Gaunt, who it now appears may have been illegitimate.Edward III did, however, also have a long standing affair with commoner Alice Perrers (1348–1400) a tiler’s daughter from Essex, who came to his attention as a lady-in-waiting to his wife Phillippa (note to shrewd medieval Queens – always hire unattractive ladies-in-waiting).She moved up in the courtly ranks to become mistress to Phillipa's husband in 1363, when she was 15 years of age; six years before the Queen's death. After the Queen’s death, the king lavished gifts on Perrers; she was given property and even a selection of the late queen’s jewels. Dressed in golden garments, Perrers was referred to as "The Lady of the Sun" by the king.

She became extremely unpopular and was widely blamed for the King's growing weakness as he aged.Parliament suspected she was taking advantage of the King’s senility to enrich herself and she was banished her from the realm in 1366. But, according to Cawthorne, “she slipped back into the country in time to throw herself weepingly on Edward’s corpse [in 1367] and prise the rings from his fingers.”Perrers is said to have had three illegitimate children by King Edward: a son named Sir John de Southeray (c. 1364-1383), who married Maud Percy, daughter of Henry Percy, 3rd Baron Percy, and his first wife Mary of Lancaster; and two daughters, Jane and Joan.But this is not the first we have heard of his wife having played the field also.Rumors of John of Gaunt’s illegitimacy have always abounded, and have traditionally rested on the “suspicious” fact that he was born abroad in Flanders. But this is often seen as little more than a way of trying to defame Edward III on the continent.Turi King, who led the genetic analysis at the University of Leicester, told The Times: “If, and it is a very big if, the break in the chain is . . . between John of Gaunt and Richard III, historians could theoretically ask questions about the inheritance of a number of Plantagenet monarchs.”