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Nov 23, 2014

The Story of Marie Antoinette is One of Mystery and Intrigue, and We May All Be a Part of It

Marie Antoinette was the vivacious Queen of France who was, and still is, associated with the extravagant lifestyles of the 18th century monarchy.

Marie Antoinette

She is perhaps one of the most illustrious women in European history - in part because of her lavish lifestyle, but also because of her tragic downfall, which ultimately led to her death.

Even to this day, over 200 years since her death, Marie Antoinette still manages to captivate our imaginations. She is a source of constant controversy, and the ambivalent feelings felt toward this fascinating woman will undoubtedly reach a zenith with the opening of the new Sofia Coppola directed movie based on Marie Antoinette's life.

Marie Antoinette was born on November 2nd, 1755 in Vienna, Austria. She was the youngest and favourite daughter of her mother's sixteen children. In a move to form a strategic alliance between Austria and France, Marie Antoinette's mother, Empress of the Holy Roman Empire Maria Theresa, promised Marie Antoinette's hand in marriage to the crown prince of France, Louis-Auguste.

When King Louis VX died suddenly of smallpox, Louis-Auguste became King Louis XVI, and Marie Antoinette became the new Queen of France at the young age of 19. Her coronation marked the pinnacle of her already charmed life.

Over time, Marie Antoinette began to indulge herself more and more in seemingly frivolous pastimes, including masked balls, theatricals, and gambling. Her leisurely life, however, came to end with the dawn of the French Revolution.

In recent years, a locket of her hair was analyzed, and the mtDNA haplogroup and sequence were determined.

With a simple swab of your mouth, you can be compared with Marie Antoinette and discover your relation to her. You will be able to trace your heritage back to times of grandeur, to times of kings and queens and royal balls, and possibly even to Marie Antoinette.

Discover your relation to Marie Antoinette »

How It Works

Inside all of us, there are special organelles in our cells called mitochondria, which contain an important set of DNA. Written in our mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is the story of our great ancestors - from their origins in Africa to their wondrous journeys around the world.

Every human alive today shares one common ancestor arising from Africa between fifty thousand and two hundred thousand years ago. Over time, different groups of people, or haplogroups, made a decision to embark on an epic journey to find new places to live. These perilous paths our ancestors traveled brought them to the far-reaching corners of the globe over thousands of years, from the low hills and river valleys of France to the sandy beaches of Thailand.

Along these varied journeys, small changes called mutations occurred in our ancestor's DNA. These mutations act like markers, or time and date stamps, pinpointing our ancestors to a particular time and place. Each ensuing generation of our ancestors then inherited these mutations, and everyone today carries markers, which tell the story of our ancient ancestors.

By comparing your markers to Marie Antoinette's, you can see when and where you shared a common maternal line, and even if you are a close relative of hers.

Discover your relation to Marie Antoinette »

The Case of the Mysterious Heart

There were persistent rumours that Marie Antoinette's son, Louis XVII, escaped prison during the French revolution, and is survived by royal heirs. These rumours were put to rest when the heart believed to have been excised from the young king at his death, was compared with a locket of Marie Antoinette's hair. The in-depth mtDNA analysis showed that the heart did indeed belong to Marie Antoinette's maternal line.

Discover your relation to Marie Antoinette »


France lays royal heart, and mystery, to rest
4:19 p.m. ET June 8, 2004

Mitochondrial DNA analysis of the putative heart of Louis XVII, son of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette.
Jehaes E, Pfeiffer H, Toprak K, Decorte R, Brinkmann B, Cassiman JJ.
Eur J Hum Genet. 2001 Mar;9(3):185-90.
Center for Human Genetics, University of Leuven, Belgium
According to official historiography, the 10-year-old Louis XVII died in the Temple of Paris on June 8, 1795. However, public rumour spread the theory that Louis XVII escaped and that his descendants would be alive today. One such putative 'Louis XVII' was Carl Wilhelm Naundorff, who died in 1845 in Delft (the Netherlands). Comparative mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) analysis gave evidence that his remains could not be identified as those of Louis XVII. In the present study, mtDNA analysis was performed on the heart of the young boy who died in the prison of Paris in 1795. In order to obtain the strongest evidence possible, two laboratories independently analysed the heart. The results showed that the consensus mtDNA sequence of the heart was identical to that of the maternal relatives of Louis XVII.

Mitochondrial DNA analysis on remains of a putative son of Louis XVI, King of France and Marie-Antoinette
Jehaes E, Decorte R, Peneau A, Petrie JH, Boiry PA, Gilissen A, Moisan JP, Van den Berghe H, Pascal O, Cassiman JJ.
Eur J Hum Genet. 1998 Jul-Aug;6(4):383-95.
Center for Human Genetics, University of Leuven, Belgium.
Carl Wilhelm Naundorff was buried in 1845 in Delft as Louis Charles, Duc de Normandie, 'Louis XVII'. However, the son of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette-Louis XVII--officially died in the Temple of Paris in 1795. In order to resolve the identity of Naundorff, mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) D-loop sequences of his remains were compared with the sequences obtained from the hairs of two sisters of Marie-Antoinette, Marie-Antoinette herself, and with the sequences obtained from DNA samples of two living maternal relatives. The mtDNA sequence of a bone sample from Naundorff showed two nucleotide differences from the sequences of the three sisters and four differences from the sequences of living maternal relatives. Based on this evidence it becomes very unlikely that Naundroff is the son of Marie-Antoinette.

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