25/01/2018 12:05 GMT | Updated 25/01/2018 17:16 GMT

Boris Johnson Is 'Descendant' Of Mummified Woman Found In Switzerland

'Very excited to hear about my late great grand 'mummy'.'

Toby Melville / Reuters
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is reportedly a relative of a mummified woman who has only just been identified

A decades-old mystery involving the identity of a mummified woman in Switzerland has been solved, unearthing a surprise twist - she’s reportedly a relative of Boris Johnson. 

Scientists in Basel have been working to identify the body since it was uncovered in 1975, during the renovation of the city’s Barfüsser Church.

The woman, Anna Catharina Bischoff - a pastor’s wife who was born in Basel in 1719 and died there in 1787 - is said to be the great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandmother of the Foreign Secretary, Swiss broadcaster SRF reported

Johnson on Thursday acknowledged the story, writing on Twitter that he was “very excited to hear about my late great grand ‘mummy’”.

Previously Johnson had said he is aware of his connections to the von Pfeffel family. This is the surname of one of Bischoff’s daughter’s husbands’. The corporation notes Johnson once told its programme, Who Do You Think You Are?, that his descendants were “posh toffs”.

Scientists unpicking the mystery believed Bischoff was a wealthy lady of Basel, having noted she was buried right in front of the altar, had been well fed, and was wearing good quality clothes. Wealthy families, according to local historians, were known to be buried around the church. 

There was no gravestone, to indicate identity, or the date of her passing, but initial testing of Bischoff’s wooden coffin suggested it dated from the 16th Century.

The mummy has been identified as Anna Catharina Bischoff 


A further clue was that the body was full of mercury, which during the 15th to 19th Century, was a treatment for syphilis.  

A breakthrough came last year when newly discovered archives revealed the body had been previously uncovered in 1843. 

Historians then concluded, through thousands of hours in the Basel State Archives, that the mummy was a member of a well-established local family, the Bischoffs.

Anthropologist Gerhard Hotz, told SRF, of solving the case: “It’s great and it’s also a scientific sensation. So far, it has never been possible to decode the identity of a completely unknown mummy.”

Bischoff died in 1787 but was only recently identified

DNA extracted from the mummy’s big toe was then compared by scientists  - working independently - with DNA taken from living descendants of the Bischoff family - including Rosemary Probst-Ryhiner .

That revealed, with 99.8% certainty, that the descendants and the mummy were all from the same maternal line.

With Bischoff’s identify established, genealogists began tracing her descendants, which led to Boris Johnson. 

According to the BBC, Bischoff had seven children, of which two survived past childhood. One daughter, also named Anna, married Christian Hubert Baron Pfeffel von Kriegelstein. Five generations of von Pfeffels later, Marie Luise von Pfeffel married Stanley Fred Williams.

According to the corporation, this is where Johnson’s link is cemented. The couple’s daughter, Yvonne, married Osman Wilfred Johnson Kemal and their son, Stanley Johnson, is Boris Johnson’s father.

Reaction to the news has been, not surprisingly, humorous, given Johnson’s polarizing politics.