Back to Basics: Genetic Genealogy and French Kings

Prince Sixte Henri Huguesand a hAn article in the European Journal of Human Genetics uses all the tools of a by-now mature genetic genealogy field to disprove that a blood sample ead tested several years ago belonged respectively to King Louis XVI and his paternal ancestor King Henry IV. Based at the Laboratory of Forensic Genetics and Moledular Archaeology at Louvain, Belgium, the authors Maarten H.D. Larmuseau et al.
collected DNA samples from three living males of the House of Bourbon in a classic Y chromosome relationship study.

The three Bourbon males—two of whom are relatively young, which suggests royal aversion to cooperation in DNA studies is slowly dying out—proved to have a matching R1b haplogroup, contradicting the G haplogroup proposed for the blood powder sample preserved in a reliquary, which only problematically matched the head. The three living Bourbons were Axel Prince of Bourbon-Parma, born 1968, a scion of the ill-fated Kingdom of Tuscany, Sixte Henri Prince of Bourbon-Parma, a claimant to the Spanish throne noted for his quixotic lawsuit to prevent Japanese art from being exhibited at the Palace of Versailles because it “denatured” French culture, and João Prince of Orléans-Braganza, born 1954, an obscure member of a Portuguese branch that claims the abolished imperial throne of Brazil. According to royal genealogies, they are cousins descended in the strict male line from Henry IV King of France (1553-1610), a Huguenot and the first French monarch of the House of Bourbon. DNA strongly confirmed these descents.

Mitochondrial comparison was also exercised as a control to test whether rumors of infidelity and non-paternity events in the early Bourbons might have any credence.

Among the interesting new research for us was the claim that “the frequency of paternal discrepancy in the Western European populations is at most 3% and is probably <1% of human births.” This surprising figure is based on:

  1. Anderson KG: How well does paternity confidence match actual paternity? Evidence from worldwide nonpaternity rates. Curr Anthropol 2006; 47: 513–520. | Article |
  2. Voracek M, Hauber T, Fisher ML: Recent decline in nonpaternity rates: a cross-temporal meta-analysis. Psychol Rep 2008; 103: 799–811.

Genetic genealogists will want to pore over this article for its standard citations on nomenclature, mutation rates and fast-moving hotspots among Y-STRs. It bids well to be a classic article of its sort.

A side observation may also be in order here. Often seen as living in the past, perhaps European noble houses are beginning to step into a new role to assist modern science in solving historical mysteries. That is a form of noblesse oblige, we think. And like any paternity test, it takes confidence.

Photo above:  Prince Sixte Henri Hugues François Xavier of Parma, Duke of Aranjuez, Pretender to the Spanish Throne and Knight of Malta, age 73.


European Journal of Human Genetics (2014) 22, 681–687; doi:10.1038/ejhg.2013.211; published online 9 October 2013

Genetic genealogy reveals true Y haplogroup of House of Bourbon contradicting recent identification of the presumed remains of two French Kings

Maarten H D Larmuseau1,2,3, Philippe Delorme4, Patrick Germain5, Nancy Vanderheyden1, Anja Gilissen1, Anneleen Van Geystelen1,6, Jean-Jacques Cassiman1 and Ronny Decorte1,2

  1. 1Laboratory of Forensic Genetics and Molecular Archaeology, UZ Leuven, Leuven, Belgium
  2. 2Forensic Biomedical Sciences, Department of Imaging and Pathology, KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium
  3. 3Laboratory of Biodiversity and Evolutionary Genomics, Department of Biology, KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium
  4. 4Independent researcher, Versailles, France
  5. 5Independent researcher; Saint-Lary, France
  6. 6Laboratory of Socioecology and Social Evolution, Department of Biology, KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium

Correspondence: Dr MHD Larmuseau, Laboratory of Forensic Genetics and Molecular Archaeology, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Forensic Medicine, Kapucijnenvoer 33, B–3000, Leuven, 3000 Belgium. Tel: +32 16 33 66 63; Fax: +32 16 32 45 75; E-mail:

Received 14 May 2013; Revised 12 August 2013; Accepted 15 August 2013
Advance online publication 9 October 2013


  Comments: 2

  1. Hello
    Hope you can help. I did a dna test with 23 and me and it said I had the bourbon gene. I went onto the paternal graph and it showed me I had rz381. I only know my dads paternal side the boyd family came from Ireland in the 1800s thrn came to Australia. Having this rz381 gene does that mean some ancestor were from the French royal family. Is it possible to do another test.

    Regards peter boyd

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