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Prince William's DNA

The UK's Times ran a splashy headline late last week claiming that Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and husband to Kate Middleton, is part Indian, based on DNA tests of the royal's distant relatives.

The article says that saliva tests of two of the prince's third cousins established a direct lineage, via mtDNA, to a woman named Eliza Kewark, an ancestor of the late Princess Diana. Kewark lived in western India, but was said to be Armenian.

The analysis, conducted by University of Edinburgh and BritainsDNA geneticist Jim Wilson, found that Eliza's "descendants had an incredibly rare type" of mtDNA that has so far only been recorded in a few Indian and Nepalese individuals.

According to The Times, the royal family is not likely to be plunged into any sort of scandal over the finding that the future king has small dollop of Indian mtDNA.

"I always assumed that I was part-Armenian so I am delighted that I also have an Indian background," says Princess Diana's maternal aunt, Mary Roach.

The PHG Foundation's Philippa Brice is not as carefree about the article, but not due to the "trivial" and unsurprising finding that the Duke possesses DNA sequences from another ethnic group.

"What is noteworthy is the ethics of publishing details of this genetic analysis at all," Brice says, noting that "one of the major ethical concerns about genetic information and privacy" is that individual information can lead to the disclosures about family members.

The Duke's cousins are free to have genetic tests if they want, but disclosing information about other, non-consenting individuals, is "highly questionable," Brice says.

"Would this have been considered acceptable if the revelation were, say, that he might have inherited genetic variants associated with disease risk?" she asks.

In addition, the newspaper has received criticism in journalism circles as it included a special offer from BritainsDNA for readers, which the Knight Science Journalism Tracker calls "harmful to journalists' credibility."