IT is one of the most improbable family connections. One is an actor famed for playing languid Lotharios, the other was one of the world's most brutal but brilliant military leaders. Nevertheless geneticists say their analysis shows Tom Conti is indeed directly related to Napoleon Bonaparte.
This remarkable claim has been made by ScotlandsDNA, a recently launched project that aims to uncover the genetic roots of the Scots and which now plans to spread its services to include the Irish, English, and Welsh.
From a participant's saliva, project scientists obtain a DNA marker that can pinpoint their ancestry. Conti and Bonaparte both share a marker known as M34.
"Some friends said they weren't surprised to find out Napoleon and I were related, but it came as quite a shock to me," said the actor. "I have got used it now and am really rather pleased."
Ancestors of the Bonaparte clan are rare in Britain, said historian Alistair Moffat, who is the current rector of St Andrews University and who set up the project with Dr Jim Wilson, a geneticist based at Edinburgh University.
However, other leaders have left quite profound lineages, such as an Irish king, Niall of the Nine Hostages, whose kin dominated northern Ireland from the 6th to the 10th centuries.
The offspring of these kings, known as the followers of Neill, or the Ui Neill, evolved into clans that include the O'Neils, Bradleys -- and the McKies. Tests reveal that around 6 per cent of Scotsmen -- whose ancestors emigrated from Ireland -- are related to each other through the Ui Neill lineage.