Mystery People Science

Exclusive: DNA Confirms Bloody Leaves from King Albert’s Fall

Scientists have recently utilized DNA tests to authenticate a macabre artifact: bloodstained leaves retrieved from the location where Belgium’s King Albert I tragically perished over eight decades ago. This breakthrough study aims to dispel lingering conspiracy theories that suggest Albert’s demise was not the result of a climbing accident but possibly murder.

King Albert I, renowned for his leadership during World War I and his refusal to allow German forces passage through Belgium to attack France, met his untimely end on February 17, 1934, while engaging in his passion for mountaineering near Marche-les-Dames, a village southeast of Brussels. His lifeless body was discovered on a rock at the base of a cliff, marking a somber event that shocked the nation and sparked widespread public mourning and curiosity.

Following Albert’s death, an influx of visitors descended upon Marche-les-Dames, not only to pay respects but also to witness the tragic spectacle. Reports from that time describe how the site where Albert fell had to be cordoned off with barbed wire to deter souvenir hunters who were stripping it bare of rocks, leaves, and branches as macabre keepsakes.

The journey to authenticate the bloodstained leaves began when a journalist acquired them at auction in 2013. Collaborating with scientists, including forensic geneticist Maarten Larmuseau from the University of Leuven in Belgium, the journalist sought to confirm the leaves’ connection to Albert’s blood. With the assistance of two living relatives of Albert—King Simeon II of Bulgaria and German baroness Anna Maria Freifrau von Haxthausen—DNA samples were compared, definitively linking the blood on the leaves to King Albert I.

The revelation of the blood’s authenticity not only lays to rest conspiracy theories surrounding Albert’s death, including suicide or politically motivated murder, but also challenges assertions made by individuals like Graham Seton Hutchison, who propagated alternative narratives about the king’s demise. The positive identification of Albert’s blood on the leaves bolsters the official account of his accidental death while engaging in his beloved mountaineering hobby.

Despite the passage of over 80 years and the absence of key witnesses, the study provides compelling evidence that supports the historical record. Larmuseau acknowledges the challenges posed by the passage of time and the disturbance of the death site by souvenir hunters, highlighting the difficulty of conducting a thorough investigation at the time of Albert’s death.

To safeguard the privacy of those involved, the researchers opted not to disclose sensitive genetic information publicly. This meticulous approach underscores the ethical considerations in genetic research, ensuring that the study’s focus remains on scientific validation rather than sensationalism.

Interestingly, this isn’t the first instance where DNA testing has authenticated relics related to historical figures. In a parallel case, scientists previously confirmed the presence of France’s King Louis XVI’s blood in a decorative gourd. The forthcoming publication of these findings in Forensic Science International: Genetics marks a significant contribution to historical and forensic research, shedding light on a decades-old mystery surrounding the demise of a revered monarch.

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