Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Royal Paternity Tested in the Modern Age

A royal paternity test in Belgium has far-reaching implications for fertility clinics.

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Even when they are centuries old, royal paternity disputes are fascinating. DNA studies of the recently discovered bones of Richard III suggest that the entire Plantagenet dynasty may have been illegitimate.

During the 19th century hundreds of imposters claimed to be the Dauphin of France, the son of Louis XVI of France and Marie Antoinette who had allegedly escaped from his Republican captors. A DNA test in 2000 proved that this was false: he had died in captivity as a child.

Similar rumours circulated about Grand Duchess Anastasia, the 17-year-old daughter of Tsar Nicholas and Tsarina Alexandra of Russia. She was said to have survived a Bolshevik firing squad, and at least ten women claimed her identity. The most famous of them was finally disproved by a DNA test long after her death.

More recently the former Spanish king, Juan Carlos, fought off two paternity cases.

The latest scandal could alter long-standing legal doctrines and change the line of succession to the throne of the Kingdom of Belgium. Here is what has happened: a court in Brussels has granted a London-based Belgian artist the right to seek legal recognition of her long-standing claim that the former King, Albert II, is her real father.

Delphine Boël is the 47-year-old daughter of Baroness Sybille de Selys Longchamps, who gave birth to her when she was married to...

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