Boris Johnson ‘descendant of Basel mummy’

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Image caption Your body was preserved by the high amounts of mercury it contained

Scientists within the Swiss city of Basel have resolved a decades-old mystery over the identification of a mummified woman.

Their research revealed a brand new surprise: the woman is the great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandma of UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.

The body had been uncovered in 1975 while refurbishments were being done on Basel’s Barfü sser Church.

She was buried correct in front of the altar, clearly well given, and wearing good quality clothes.

This was obviously the body of the wealthy lady of Basel.

But who was she specifically, and when did she die?

Mercury poisoning

There was no gravestone to indicate her identity, but preliminary testing of her wooden coffin suggested it dated from the sixteenth Century.

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Image caption Boris Johnson told the particular BBC programme Who Do You Think You might be? that his ancestors were “posh toffs”

Another clue: her body had been riddled with mercury – a standard therapy for syphilis from the late fifteenth to the 19th Century. Highly harmful mercury treatment was more often the kill than a cure and it had been this that preserved her entire body.

But that eventually left open the question of who the lady was.

Basel within the 16th and 17th Centuries was obviously a wealthy trading city; its slot on the river Rhine was a crucial hub for moving goods throughout Europe, and it remains so these days.

Local historians understood that members of Basel’s rich families were buried in and around the particular Barfü sser Church.

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Media caption For centuries, Barfü sser Church kept clues to the ancestral history of Boris Johnson’s family

Some were obviously named in records, some acquired clearly marked gravestones.

But not the mummy. This only became clear in 2017, in newly discovered archives, that this mummy had been uncovered once just before, in 1843.

All those records led historians to believe the mummy was a member of the well-established Basel family, the Bischoffs.

DNA tests

Using the most current methods, scientists were able to extract GENETICS material from the mummy’s big bottom.

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Image caption Scientists have used DNA tests to establish the mummy’s identity

This was in comparison, by scientists working independently from another, with DNA taking through living descendants of the Bischoff family members.

The results had been clear, showing a 99. 8% probability that the descendants and the mummy were all from the same mother’s line.

Now the particular scientists and the historians were certain: the mummy was none other than Ould – Catharina Bischoff. Born in Basel in 1719, she died generally there in 1787.

Illustrious descendants

As soon as her identity had been established, genealogists were able – with the help of the effective records of births, marriages, plus deaths which tend to be kept by wealthier classes – to trace really Anna Catharina’s descendants.

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Image caption An artist’s impression gives an idea of how scientists think Anna Catharina Bischoff may have looked

She had seven children. Just two survived childhood, but a single daughter, also Anna, married a specific Christian Hubert Baron Pfeffel vonseiten Kriegelstein. Five generations of vonseiten Pfeffels later, and we find Jessica Luise von Pfeffel marrying a single Stanley Fred Williams.

Their daughter Yvonne wedded Osman Wilfred Johnson Kemal… plus their son, Stanley Johnson, is usually British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s father.

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Boris Johnson has yet in order to comment on the discovery of their long lost relative, but he is definitely aware of the von Pfeffel contacts, having once told the BBC program Who Do You Think You Are? that they were “posh toffs”.

But what of Ould – Catharina herself? Did she, in order to borrow a phrase from the girl seven-times great grandson, live the life of blameless domesticity?

In fact she seems to have.

Image copyright Getty Pictures
Image caption Many of Anna Catharina Bischoff’s descendents – including Stanley Johnson (right) and Rachel Johnson – have been in the public eye

She married a chapel minister, and lived for a lot of her adult life in Strasbourg. There, it is believed, she might have contracted syphilis while caring for sufferers with the sexually transmitted disease.

Within the death of her husband the lady returned to her home town of Basel, and apparently underwent rigorous mercury treatment in the hope of a treatment.

It did not function: scientists believe Anna Catharina possibly died from mercury poisoning.

But the mercury also maintained her body – allowing this researchers to find out exactly who she has been, and who her descendants are usually.