As far as souvenirs go, they were gory ones: bloodied leaves and stones collected during the wee hours of Feb. 18, 1934, by Belgian villagers who lived near Marche-les-Dames. King Albert I had set off on a solo climb amid the area's 600-foot-tall peaks on the 17th, having instructed his valet to wait in the car, reports the Washington Post. Alone, the king fell to his death. Conspiracy theories have lived on in the eight decades since: With no witnesses to the 58-year-old's fall, "'mise-en-scène' scenarios" abounded, explains the study, published in Forensic Science International: Genetics. Some insisted the king was murdered in another location, with his body either placed at Marche-les-Dames later or never traveling there at all. Forensic geneticist Maarten Larmuseau's research kills those potential plotlines, explains a press release.
He found two living and willing relatives—a former prime minister of Bulgaria from Albert's father's side and a German baroness from his mother's—and compared their DNA to that on some of the bloody leaves. The Y-chromosome and mitochondrial genome comparison provided "strong evidence that King Albert I was indeed the donor of the blood stains." Larmuseau calls his study "one of the last possibilities to gather additional data. ... 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. Furthermore, the results show that conducting a perfect legal investigation at the time was impossible right from the start, because souvenir hunters had disturbed the scene." (England, meanwhile, is searching for another king under a parking lot.)