Adolf, brother to William of Orange, was killed in the Battle of Heiligerlee (1568), but no one knows what happened to his body. In Oldenburg, Doedens found remains that might belong to the count, but if he wants proof, he needs a DNA match.
On Tuesday, he went to Dillenburg in Germany to open up the coffin belonging to one of Adolf’s great-nephews in the town church. Originally, he’d also planned to look inside the coffin belonging to another nephew; both are descendants of Adolf’s brother Jan van Nassau. However, this second coffin was sealed too tightly. ‘We would have destroyed it, which is obviously not something we want’, says Doedens.
The original, wooden coffin – sealed in a metal tomb – was in great condition: ‘We were really happy with that alone.’ The discovery he made upon opening the coffin made him even happier: ‘The body was practically mummified’, he says. ‘This means we’ll have a great chance to extract a DNA profile.’
Years ago, Doedens found the remains of an unknown male in the St. Lamberti Church in Oldenburg. Research showed that the man was between twenty and thirty years old, that he wasn’t related to the counts of Oldenburg, and that he wasn’t born in the surrounding area. Could this be Adolf van Nassau? Attempts so far to find DNA from one of his relatives have failed.
Anthropologist Birgit Großkopf with the University of Göttingen, who is part of the research team, took DNA material from two teeth belonging to the nephew in Dillenburg on Tuesday to compare to the Oldenburg bones. Now, after all these years, Doedens’ search for Adolf van Nassau might come to an end. ‘In eight weeks, we’ll know if we succeeded’, he says with a sigh.