DNA tests on clothing could solve a historic Eastern European mystery surrounding paternity.
For years people have wondered whether Czechoslovakia’s first ever president Tomas Garrigue Masaryk was actually the illegitimate son of Emperor Franz Joseph, who ruled the Austro-Hungarian empire until his death in 1916.
Masaryk’s mother Theresia Kropaczek was a cook at the Habsburg’s estate in Hodinin. She gave birth to her son in March 1850, just seven months after marrying a fellow servant Josef Masaryk, leading some to raise questions about paternity.
According to Czech historian Marek Vareka, from Hodonin’s Masaryk Museum, it would not be unusual for local women to be selected to amuse the emperor and keep him company during his visits to the area.
A report by the BBC claims it is possible Masaryk could have been conceived when the emperor visited Hodonin in 1849 when he was just 19 years old. Although there is no evidence that Theresia and Franz Joseph ever even met, rumours began because Masaryk was allowed to move in aristocratic circles from childhood despite his humble beginnings.
Historians now hope that DNA testing may provide a definitive answer to this riddle. Samples will be collected from a suitcase of clothes belonging to Masaryk and compared to known male descendants of the man he believed to be his father, Josef Masaryk.
Samples will be taken from clothing
If these tests show Masaryk could not have been the biological son of his mother’s husband then further tests will be carried out to compare his DNA with that of the Habsburg’s. This could include collecting genetic samples from historic artefacts, like the blood from a handkerchief belonging to Franz Joseph’s nephew, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, whose assassination is widely acknowledged as the trigger for the start of the First World War.
Tests could also be carried out on known living descendants of the Habsburgs to see if it is possible Masaryk could be the emperor’s son.
David Vondracek, a documentary maker for Czech TV is leading the quest to find the truth about Masaryk’s paternity. But others believe the tests will do nothing but debunk a far-fetched theory based on rumour and speculation.
Irena Chovancikova, the Masaryk Museum’s director, told the BBC: “I’d like this debate to be settled once and for all. That’s why I agreed for his clothes to be examined.
“Personally, as a historian, I wouldn’t have bothered looking into it. Masaryk always talked about Josef as his father. The father-son relationship was clear for all to see.”
Of course, most family mysteries answered by paternity tests are much more recent than the one affecting the Czech Republic. DNA tests can give someone proof of whether they are biologically related to another person by comparing genetic samples from both individuals.
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