Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Queen Victoria's Gene

The Book: Queen Victoria's Gene

The Author: D. M. Potts

The Dealio: So, the woman we now know as Queen Victoria turns out to have been cloaked in all sorts of mystery. This book attempts to pierce that cloak with an overdose of medical science and genetic study. On paper, Vicky looks like a bona fide- if not the most direct- heir to the throne. And then she deliberately broadened her base of political influence by singlehandedly, (well, Prince Albert did play a role, so not quite singlehandedly), marrying off her offspring throughout Europe to become pivotal players in the courts of the continent. I mean, have you ever seen pix of the Tzar, the Kaiser and the Prince of Wales all together? Man oh man, you can not tell one from the other!
Now, for the monkey in the wrench, as John McClane might say. There are just a few inconvenient factors: first, in so populating thrones all over Europe, Vic also placed the gene for hemophilia (and porphyria, but that's another story) into play behind the scenes., to tragic effect. Or did she? The author has made an exhaustive (at least, exhaustive for me to read) study of the genetic patterns possessed, first by the various offspring, and by the offsprings of the offsprings littering the thrones of Europe. And, finally, analyzing the genetic stuff of Vicky, herself.
Guess what? There does not seem to be the gene necessary for the hemophilia in Vic. Now, it is possible for there to have been a spontaneous mutation of this gene-ta-DA!- in QV. But, it is far more likely for Victoria to be hit by lightning-twice- in a crowded theatre in downtown Swansea, featuring a 24 hour retrospective on the entire Star Wars oeuvre than for this to have happened. Aaaaaand, if the spontaneous mutation did not occur, then the obvious conclusion is that there is an, um, how should I put this? Suspicion that someone other than Victoria's mom's husband contributed to this particular gene pool.
Someone get a rope.

The Grading Session: 3.1 pengies out of 5. I mean, I like science as much as anyone, but I confess that the first few chapters of this thing read like the notes for a presentation to the International Genetic Studies Convention. It is only towards the end of the second half of the book that we get the really good, tabloid-style 411. Sorry...too little, too late. I'll just have to wait for the Andrew Morton take on the subject.

Lessons Learned: Genes are tricky things and, when you least expect it, they can well and truly sneak up and bite you on the escutcheon. That'll leave a mark.

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