Hunt on for Prince William’s Indian cousins

PRINCE WILLIAM

Scientists have launched a hunt for possible distant cousins of Britain’s Prince William after it emerged he shared Indian ancestry. A day after DNA results revealed that the young royal carried an Indian gene, scientists said they are now looking to find his distant relatives in Surat in Gujarat.

“It’s a great thing to unite people across the distances … It shows commonality,” said Dr Jim Wilson, a geneticist at the University of Edinburgh and chief scientist at Britains DNA.

Dr Wilson said Eliza Kewark – Prince William’s great, great, great, great, great grandmother- gave birth to two children. Katherine Scott Forbes, born in 1812, was Prince William’s great-great-great-great grand mother. The second child, Alexander, was born two years later. “Alexander went back to India and did not die early,” said Dr Wilson. “He may have descendants there today.” Katherine later married James Crombie, a member of the coat-making family.

On Friday, scientists announced that the future king of England has Indian blood in him and is a direct descendent of part-Indian Eliza Kewark, who was a house keeper for his great-great-great-great-great grandfather Theodore Forbes, a Scottish merchant who worked for the East India Company in Surat.

New genetic evidence has found that Prince William, Duke of Cambridge – second in line to the British throne after his father Prince Charles- is the direct descendant of an Indian woman and that he carries her mitochondrial DNA. The same DNA lineage has also been found in Prince Harry.

The scientists said it’s through an unbroken maternal line to late Princess Diana from Kewark’s daughter, Katherine, that Prince William and his brother Prince Harry inherited the Indian DNA.

Born in 1790, Eliza lived in India when it was governed by the East India Company, and is thought to have had Armenian blood because of her surname.

Using birth, marriage and death records, the researchers traced two of Eliza’s living direct descendants, who are both third cousins of Princess Diana’s mother Frances Shand Kydd, and tested samples of their saliva.

Dr Wilson said, “This was independent evidence that there was Indian ancestry. For me, it corroborated the findings from the mtDNA. We’ve got two different kinds of genetic evidence that are independent from one another and they both corroborate the story. So it really seems that our future king has a little bit of Indian blood”.

Mitochondrial DNA or mtDNA is a small piece of DNA, inherited mostly unchanged from a mother to her children. Men inherit it but do not pass it on. Princes William and Harry carry Kewark’s markers but will not pass this Indian mtDNA onto their children.

The scientists said, “Through genealogy, we traced two living direct descendants 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. Comparison to database from over 65,000 individuals from around the world showed that only 14 examples have been reported, 13 of whom were Indian and one Nepalese”.

R30b is rare even in India, where roughly 0.3% of people carry this lineage. And Eliza’s lineage is rarer still. Within haplogroup R30b, an exact match to her sequence is yet to be found. Eliza Kewark’s two descendants are estimated to be about 0.3% and 0.8% South Asian, with three blocks of South Asian DNA in each of their genomes. All the rest is of European origin.

– Times of India