The Queen has commanded Britain’s most senior judges to decide if DNA evidence can be used for the first time to settle a dispute over a hereditary title, in a move that could have far-reaching consequences for the aristocracy.
Her Majesty personally ordered Lord Neuberger, Britain’s most senior judge, and six other justices of the Supreme Court to rule on a bitter family dispute over who is the rightful heir to an ancient baronetcy.
The feud was unexpectedly sparked by an innocent family tree project involving a distinguished lineage dating back to the 13th Century.
Scientific analysis dramatically revealed that the last baronet came from a different bloodline to his relatives, suggesting there may have been an illegitimate child in a previous generation.
The two rival branches of the family have now spent thousands of pounds on a legal battle over which is the true lineage.
The peerage authorities were called upon to decide if the genetic material could be used to determine who should inherit the Pringle of Stichill baronetcy, and it was up to the Queen herself to order that a powerful but little-known court of top judges should make the ruling.
If the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council agrees that DNA evidence can be admitted in the case, it can then be used in any future claim to the peerage.
This could have huge implications for the whole of the British aristocracy – and possibly even the Royal Family itself – if it means ‘pretenders’ emerge with genetic evidence to prove their right of succession.
British history is pretty much nothing but battles between royal bastards, so using DNA to sort things out should produce quite a muddle – castles relinquished, coats of arms discarded and, best of all, some lawyer out in Utah may prove to be the proper King of England.
James Ord, 39, from Salt Lake City, joked that if DNA was introduced in such cases he may be able to make a claim to the throne.
Mr Ord, a distant cousin of an American seaman rumoured to be one of George’s children, said the story was ‘family lore’. ‘I want to know my history because it fascinates me,’ said Mr Ord. ‘But of course I won’t have any legal claim on Buckingham Palace!’
The chances of any of the Royal Family submitting to genetic tests is unlikely.
Ord may disclaim any interest in dethroning Queen Elizabeth now, but if he can grab a water glass from her palysied grip and have it tested, he just may find the lure of one of the world’s largest fortunes irresistible.