Boris Johnson 'is descendant' of mummified Basel woman

Tests show Basel mummy was ancestor of British foreign minister

It was the mercury that was likely responsible for her death in 1787 at the age of 68 - and responsible, as well, for her body's uncommon preservation in the 230 years since.

A syphilitic mummified corpse dating back to the 18th century has been identified as Anna Catharina Bischoff, the great-great-great-great-great-great-grandmother of the foreign secretary.

Initial testing of her wooden coffin suggested it dated from the 16th Century, yet these clues alone were not enough.

The 230-year-old unknown mummy was discovered four decades ago during excavations of Barfusser church in Basel.

DNA tests show Bischoff died of mercury poisoning, which explains why the remains were so well preserved - the poison acted as a preservative.

However, extensive testing of DNA extracted from the mummy's big toe points to the corpse being Anna Catharina Bischoff, the great-great-great-great-great-great grandmother of the UK Foreign Secretary.

Newly discovered archives in 2017 led historians to suspect the mummy was of a well-established Basel family, the Bischoffs.

The research confirmed the woman was Anna Catharina.

Once her identity had been established, genealogists were able - with the help of the efficient records of births, marriages, and deaths which tend to be kept by the wealthier classes - to trace more of Anna Catharina's descendants.

But the mercury also preserved her body - allowing today's researchers to find out exactly who she was, and who her descendants are.

Born in Basel in 1719, Anna Catharina Bischoff married a church minister, and lived most of her adult life in Strasbourg.

She had contracted syphilis, probably from treating sufferers of the disease.

One of those girls, also named Anna, married Christian Hubert Baron Pfeffel von Kriegelstein - and Boris's dad Stanley Johnson arrived six generations later.

According to the BBC, Bischoff had seven children, of which two survived past childhood.

Their son, Stanley Johnson, is the Foreign Secretary's father.

He previously told the BBC programme Who Do You Think You Are? that he was a "product of many countries" and described his von Pfeffel ancestors as "posh toffs".

Johnson's worldwide background is well known.

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