A DNA analysis of Prince William, second-in-line to Britain’s throne has revealed that he has an Indian ancestry. This ancestry has been found in his mtDNA which means he inherited it from his mother Princess Diana. And that is because mtDNA (the DNA in the mitochondria) is always passed down from mother to her children (sons and daughters), just like the Y chromosome is always passed down from father to his sons (not daughters).

How does Prince William’s mtDNA reveal his Indian ancestry?

As mentioned above mtDNA is always passed down from the mother to her children. So it always continues to be passed down generations after generations through daughters, grand daughters, great grand daughters etc.

Wait, did I say daughters, and grand daughters? But we also mentioned that it is also passed down to sons right? Yes, the mtDNA is also passed down to sons from their mother. But it stops there. It does not get passed down to the children of Sons.  That is because the mtDNA of the Son’s children will be from their mother, i.e. the Son’s wife. So the moment there is a Son in the lineage, the propagation of the mtDNA from his mother stops there, but always continues throughout the lineage of daughters.

Now what has been revealed through the DNA analysis of Prince William is that, his mtDNA is of an extremely rare type which is found only in Indians. And this is said to have been passed down to him from his fifth great grandmother Eliza Kewark who was a housekeeper to Prince William’s fifth great grandfather Theodore Forbes (1788-1820). Theodore Forbes worked for the British East India Company in the state of Gujarat, India.

Armenian or Indian?

If you are an Indian, you might be already wondering, Eliza Kewark does not sound like an Indian name!

Rightly, she was an Armenian whose ancestors had settled in India centuries before her. The reason I wrote this article was that we are seeing arguments now that Prince Williams does not have an Indian ancestry because his 5th great grand mother was an Armenian! Let me explain why this argument is flawed.

Firstly, Eliza Kewark was already an Indian as her ancestors had been living in India for centuries before her. But more importantly, our DNA does not lie even if we claim to be Martians. The fact that Prince William has the specific Indian mtDNA only implies that he got it from his 5th great grandmother, who should have definitely got it from her mother and grandmother who should have been Indian not Armenian. Our DNA does not change just because we migrate to and start living in some other country. Somewhere back in the lineage of his 5th great grandmother there had to be an Indian ancestry which the Indian mtDNA came from.

The logical conclusion is that Eliza Kewark’s paternal ancestry might have been Armenian, but from her mother’s side it was an Indian ancestry. Without which it is simply not possible for her mtDNA to have Indian genestamp on it. So the 5th great grandmother of Prince William and Prince Harry was both Armenian and Indian in terms of her genetic makeup.

Forget it, We all are Africans First

Having said all this, it sounds silly to get into emotional arguments over DNA ancestry, because ultimately the current genetic knowledge is that we all have our common ancestry in Africa. Humans first evolved in Africa, and from there spread to the rest of the world through successive waves of migrations. We all are Africans.

At the same time, recent genetic studies have also revealed that most of the world’s non-African humans have an Indian ancestry. Most humans migrated out of Africa into India some 70,000 years back and from there spread to the rest of the world. This is called the Out of India theory of human evolution. See a pictorial representation below. The Red represents we Homo Sapiens (human beings), green represents early hominids and  the third color (what is it’s name?) represents Neanderthals.

Human Migration Route - Source: Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Spreading_homo_sapiens.svg License: CC BY SA 2.5

DNA Analysis – Yet another blow to Privacy

As DNA analysis technology progresses and becomes more affordable, in the forthcoming years, it would be next to impossible to protect the privacy of your DNA history and ancestry, if at all you care about it.  Just your hair fallen somewhere, or some saliva were you to spit out on the street is sufficient to reveal your entire genetic history!

Some time back I had tweeted this

Looking at the present technological progress(?) one can be assured that privacy will be a matter of past in future.

The power of DNA analysis again supports this claim and concerns about privacy violations. Please note that Prince William did not provide his DNA to be analyzed. The DNA was provided by Robin Dewhurst and Sarah Drury, the two distant cousins of Prince William. So, it is not even necessary for people to actually access your DNA to know your genetic history, it would be sufficient to get it from your close relatives.

Technological advances are making not just the computer software open source, but even our lives. Isn’t it? Extremely interesting times ahead.

Also note, the Indian ancestry in Prince William’s DNA will not be passed down to his children, because as we saw initially, mtDNA propagation stops where there is a son in the lineage.

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