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DNA analysis in the case of Kaspar Hauser


In 1828 a mysterious young man appeared in Nürnberg, Germany, who was barely able to speak or walk but could write down his name, Kaspar Hauser. He quickly became the centre of social interest but also the victim of intrigue. His appearance, his origin and assassination in 1833 were, and still are, the source of much debate. The most widely accepted theory postulates that Kaspar Hauser was the son of Grand Duke Carl von Baden and his wife Stephanie de Beauharnais, an adopted daughter of Napoleon Bonaparte. To check this theory, DNA analysis was performed on the clothes most likely worn by Kaspar Hauser when he was stabbed on December 14th, 1833. A suitable bloodstain from the underpants was divided and analysed independently by the Institute of Legal Medicine, University of Munich (ILM) and the Forensic Science Service Laboratory, Birmingham (FSS). Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) was sequenced from the bloodstain and from blood samples obtained from two living maternal relatives of Stephanie de Beauharnais. The sequence from the bloodstained clothing differed from the sequence found in both reference blood samples at seven confirmed positions. This proves that the bloodstain does not originate from a son of Stephanie de Beauharnais. Thus, it is becoming clear that Kaspar Hauser was not the Prince of Baden.

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Received: 5 September 1997 / Received in revised form: 3 February 1998

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Weichhold, G., Bark, J., Korte, W. et al. DNA analysis in the case of Kaspar Hauser. Int J Leg Med 111, 287–291 (1998).

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  • Key words Kaspar Hauser
  • Ancient DNA
  • Mitochondrial DNA
  • Sex determination