The notion of “historic” links between India and Britain may have just acquired a whole new meaning following claims that Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge and the second line to the British throne, has Indian lineage.

A British genetics expert has claimed that Prince William’s (hold your breath) “great-great-great-great-great grandmother,” Eliza Kewark, who was until now thought to be an Armenian may have been “half-Indian.”

DNA test

The claim is said to be based on a DNA test of saliva samples taken from Prince William’s relatives.

The Times, in a breathless front-page story headlined “Revealed: the Indian ancestry of William, noted that this would one day make him “the first Head of the Commonwealth with a clear genetic link to its most populous nation” and was “sure to boost his popularity among India’s 1.1 billion population.”

Jim Wilson of the University of Edinburgh, who carried out the DNA tests, said that Eliza’s descendants had “an incredibly rare type of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA),” inherited only from a mother. It had been recorded in only 14 other people, 13 Indian and one Nepalese.

“Dr. Wilson…, said that results of the mtDNA combined with the findings of South Asian DNA in the rest of the genome meant that the evidence of the Duke’s Indian heritage was “unassailable,” The Times said adding that “Indians will seize on the revelation that a woman who appears to have been shunned by colonial society because of her race is an ancestor of the future King.”

“Diana-mania”

Prince William has never visited India, but his mother sparked a veritable “Diana-mania” when she went there with Prince Charles in 1992. A photograph showing her sitting alone in front of the Taj Mahal became a defining moment of her loneliness as her marriage slowly disintegrated.

The Prince’s Indian ancestor’s marriage to her Scottish husband too had a sad ending. He apparently deserted her and sent their six-year-old daughter Katherine to Britain. Letters from Eliza to her children’s father, Theodore Forbes, reportedly show her pleading for her to be allowed to see him. In his will, Mr. Forbes referred to Eliza as his “housekeeper.”

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