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The King's Blood

Blood-spattered leaves collected from the site of King Albert I of Belgium's death some 80 years have been authenticated, LiveScience reports.

While Albert I died in a climbing accident near Marche-les-Dames — he was a mountaineer — some conspiracy theorists claimed that he was instead actually murdered or that his body was never actually there. These leaves, LiveScience adds, were collected a relic from Marche-les-Dames and later bought by Reinout Goddyn, a journalist who works for the Flemish television program Royalty and who enlisted scientists to investigate their origin.

As the researchers from KU Leuven report in Forensic Science International: Genetics, they combined protein analysis and a genetic genealogical approach based on mitochondrial genome and Y-chromosome variation to authenticate the sample. They compared the sample's results to those from Anna Maria, Freifrau von Haxthausen, who is related to Albert I on her mother's side, and from King Simeon II of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, who is related to Albert I on his father's side, to find matches.

"The authenticity of the trails of blood confirms the official account of the death of Albert I," the researchers say in a statement. "The story that the dead body of the king has never been in Marche-les-Dames or was only placed there at night has now become very improbable."

The researchers also say that they tried to avoid ethical concerns that can come up in such analyses of deceased individuals with living relatives, such as the possibility of revealing paternity and genetic royal descent issues or inherited diseases, by not publishing the full genetic profiles.