London: Prince William, second in line to Britain’s throne, has Indian ancestry, new genetic research has revealed. His younger brother Harry too has a similar Indian genetic connection.
William’s Indian ancestry was unveiled by BritainsDNA, a genetic ancestry testing company in the UK. The Indian connection of the British princes comes through their mother, Princess Diana, and this is their only non-European DNA.
Researchers have sourced William’s Indian ancestry to Eliza Kewark, his great-great-great-great-great grandmother, who was assumed to be Armenian, but now has been revealed as an Indian by genetic research.
Eliza, who was born circa 1790, lived conjugally with Theodore Forbes, a Scottish merchant working for the East Indian Company. Forbes (1788-1820) was from Aberdeenshire and Eliza had joined his household in Surat as a housekeeper. They had three children together.
Researchers led by Dr Jim Wilson, a genetics expert at the University of Edinburgh and chief scientist BritainsDNA, traced the matrilineal line of 30-year-old Prince William, who is about to become father for the first time in a few weeks. The team tested saliva samples of William’s relatives.
Prince William's family tree
William’s matrilineal line continued with the birth of the couple’s first child, a girl named Katharine Scott Forbes after Theodore’s mother. The baby’s birth was registered at Surat, where the family lived. Their son Alexander Scott Forbes was born in 1814 and there appears to have been a third child, most probably a girl, of whom no details are known.
When Katharine was eight years old and Alexander six, they accompanied Theodore on a ship bound for Britain, but he died on board and was buried at sea. His two children were sent to his family in Aberdeenshire.
Katharine stayed on with her relatives, but her brother was sent home to Surat soon after his arrival due to his increasing home sickness. The Scottish relatives made Eliza Kewark out to be an Armenian, as interracial marriages were a taboo at the time, and the Indian connection was lost in family gossip with time.
“Through genealogy we traced two living direct descendants of Eliza and by reading the sequence of their mtDNA, we showed not only that they matched, but also that it belongs to a haplogroup called R30b, thus determining Eliza Kewark’s haplogroup,” the research team revealed.
The haplogroup, which is a group of related ancestral lineages, in this case was revealed to be rare and found only in South Asia. Other related branches of R30a and R30* are also entirely South Asian.
“This confirms therefore that the mtDNA of Eliza Kewark of Surat was of Indian heritage. R30b is rare even in India, where roughly 0.3 per cent of people carry this lineage,” the researchers revealed.
Prince William and his brother Prince Harry have inherited a rare matrilineal sequence of DNA from Eliza and researchers said they had yet to find an exact match to her sequence has yet to be found outside of her descendants.
The British princes will not be able to pass on their extremely rare Indian mtDNA to their children as it is passed from mothers. “It is very likely that in addition to his mtDNA, Prince William has not only inherited a small proportion of Indian DNA from Eliza Kewark but that his heirs will also carry it,” the research team said.
“This a great example of how genetics can be used to answer specific historical questions and uncover fascinating facts about our ancestry,” Dr Wilson said.