Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

DNA and King Henri's head

Like that of King Charles the head of King Henri IV of France keeps cropping up. My previous posts about it can be seen at King Henri's head and Uneasy lies the head.

The identification of the head as that of the first Bourbon King of France and its potential reburial at St Denis, whence it was disinterred, along with the other royal remains in 1793, is of genuine if slightly macabre interest. Such a return to St Denis would be one way of the French atoning for the sacrilege of the revolution, and King Henri remains one of their most popular monarchs 

However having been the victim of assassination, disinterment and separation from its body and turnedinto a museum object the royal head is now at the mercy of experts in DNA, as is reported in this article from the Spanish newspaper El Tempo, which a friend has kindly forwarded to me, and which can be seen here. I must warn readers that it has, rather like the royal head, suffered in the process of transmission, having been put through the Yahoo automatic translation system and coming out in particularly bad Spanglish - which is probably worse to read than battling through the original with little or no knowledge of Spanish.

Nonetheless the article is interesting. It points out how the Bourbon-Orleanist claimant to the throne of France, the Count of paris  -the de jure  King Henri VII has remained somewhat aloof from the controveries around the head, other than wishing for its honourable reburial at St Denis.  DNA tests from members of the Bourbon family, including the Queen of Romania, have established genetic identity between the head and known descendents of King Henri IV.

The article gets very confusing for the unwary when it moves on to the other claimannt to the French throne, the Duke of Anjou-Segovia, who claims as the de jure King Louis XX. When the article writes of "Queen Elizabeth II" and her husband it does not mean those whom you might think, but is a literal Anglicisation of the name of Queen Isabella II, born in 1830 and who died in 1904, having reigned as Queen of Spain from 1833 until 1868/70.

The point here is that the Anjou claim to the throne of France come sthrough that Queen's marriage to her cousin and consort King Francis, whose father was her father's younger brother. Both their parents were siblings, which affects the DNA count, but it is widely believed that none of the children borne by Queen Isabella were actually fathered by her husband (who is thought not to have been able or willing to do that sort of thing if you understand my coyness in such delicate matters), although he recognised them as his progeny.

If the Duke of Anjou-Segovia is not descended from from King Francis d'Asis and the uninterrupted male line of the Bourbons  then he would have no claim to the French throne as King Louis XX - and never mind the treaty of Utrecht's provisions about not conjoining the thrones of France and Spain. 
Hence the article's query as to whether of not the Duke would undergo DNA matching himself.

However, to complicate matters further DNA testing is not quite that simple, as is conveniently explained in the biographical article about King Francis here.

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