Swiss mummy is UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson's 'great-grandmummy'

Images via SRF and Getty Images

Highly toxic mercury was used as a treatment for syphilis but was more often a kill than a cure and scientists say it was this that preserved her body.

A syphilitic mummified corpse dating back to the 18th century has been identified as Anna Catharina Bischoff, the great-great-great-great-great-great-grandmother of the foreign secretary.

Although the woman was laid in a 16th century coffin, there was no gravestone marking her name, making her identification hard.

Last year, they discovered that the body had been discovered previously, in 1843.

Scientists in Basel identified the woman and revealed her to to be the great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandmother of UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.

It may not have worked, but the mercury did help to preserve her body until now.

DNA extracted from the mummy's big toe gave an nearly certain probability she was Anna Catharina Bischoff of Basel born 1719, and died 1787.

Those records led historians to suspect she was a member of the well-heeled Bischoff clan.

Researchers then set out to discover the genealogical tree of the woman.

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She married a church minister, and lived for much of her adult life in Strasbourg.

She had contracted syphilis, probably from treating sufferers of the disease.

Bischoff's relationship to the Johnson family was confirmed by records of births, deaths and marriages.

According to the BBC, Bischoff had seven children, of which two survived past childhood.

But before her death in 1787, she returned to Basel for syphilis treatment. She also appears to have been well-fed.

One daughter married Christian Hubert Baron Pfeffel von Kriegelstein and five generations later his daughter Marie married Stanley Johnson.

The foreign secretary has not yet commented on the discovery, but is known for his worldwide ancestry.

Boris Johnson has yet to comment on the discovery of his long lost relative, but he is certainly aware of the von Pfeffel connections, having once told the BBC programme Who Do You Think You Are? that they were "posh toffs".

Wilfred Johnson did not know his father Ali Kemal, though the latter was a Turkish politician and opposition journalist murdered in the 1920s.

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