For Scousers, Londoners, fans of BBC’s Have I Got News for You satirical news quiz, and especially to everyone who watched this Beijing to London Olympic handover this week the name Boris Johnson likely drums up an image of some blonde, floppy haired, bedraggled and totally confused Tory toff, who just happens to be Mayor of London.
Well, it turns out that he has quite an interesting ancestry of which he was almost totally unaware until another BBC TV show (Who Do You Think You Are?, which is all about family history and genealogy of the rich and famous) helped him dig deep into the roots of his family tree. First off, not only was his great grandfather, Ali Kemal an outspoken journalist turned politician (like Johnson) who was apparently lynched by the state in the founding years of modern Turkey but his great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather was King George II of England (illegitimately due to a “wrong-side-of-the-sheets liaison between Johnson’s great grandmother and a descendant of George II. Such ancestry means Johnson is related to all the royal families of Europe.
How’s that for a bit of name dropping? Of course, there are probably tens of thousands of people who have illegitimate links to European royals, but it’s an interesting find nevertheless.
However, for those who think Johnson is nothing more than a blithering fop, it was his final words in this episode of “Who Do You Think You Are?” that were most poignant to lineage, heredity and most of all genetics, which is why I thought they warranted a holiday mention. I just hope they were spontaneous and unscripted.
We’re all just great, our genes just pulse down the lines. We’re not the ultimate expression of our genes. We’re the temporary custodians of these things. We don’t really know where they’ve come from, where they’re going, and the whole process is incredibly democratic.
You can view a segment from the show here, unfortunately, the closing quote is not included in this Youtube segment.
UPDATE: Following on from Mr Johnson’s genetic insights, I see there’s a paper in this week’s Nature from Cornell researchers that says: “One day soon, you may be able to pinpoint the geographic origins of your ancestors based on analysis of your DNA. The researchers describe the use of DNA to predict the geographic origins of individuals from a sample of Europeans, often within a few hundred kilometres of where they were born.”
Novembre, J et al (2008). Genes mirror geography within Europe Nature