Tag Archives: 17th Century

On the Downsides to Inbreeding

18 Nov

Is there an upside? Maybe you have to do less wooing? Still…there are lots of downsides to inbreeding. And if you need proof (do you really need proof?), I present Exhibit A against marrying your cousin (or any other member of YOUR OWN FAMILY):

Charles II of Spain. It isn’t pretty…

Even the court painters couldn’t do anything to make him look better. Historians are pretty sure he suffered from¬† number of serious medical conditions they hadn’t named yet (all- shockingly- generally caused by inbreeding). Among other problems, Charles jaw was so big that he couldn’t chew. And his tongue was entirely to big for his mouth, so he had difficulty talking and drooled all the time. Attractive. Unsurprisingly, he never managed to have any children, despite being married twice (there’s something to be said for natural selection and survival of the fittest).

The real problem with Charles started over a century before his birth in 1665. Charles II of Spain was part of the illustrious (and disgustingly royal) Hapsburg family/dynasty. In order to keep the family dominion (which occasionally included places like modern Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Netherlands, etc.) in the family, they did a lot of inbreeding. In fact, historians have managed to track down the exact point when they stopped outbreeding in 1555, more than a hundred years before Charles was born. If that sounds weird to you, you’re right- it is weird.

Charles grandmother (Empress Maria Anna) was also his aunt, and his grandmother (Margarita of Austria) was also his great-grandmother. In case you want an illustration of how tangled his family tree is, I’ll show you:

Please note how every one of his relatives does double duty in the family tree. And how everyone¬† is a descendant of Philip of Castile and Joanna of Aragon (who, incidentally, is also known to history and “Juana the Mad”. I’m sensing some really good genes here.

I was sitting here thinking to myself: “How on earth did anyone else working hard running their own nations in Europe possible take Charles and Spain seriously?!” I mean, if I was sitting around being the king of France, next door to Spain, I would definitely be disparaging of Charles, and possibly try to take advantage of him (oh, you know the French kings are mean anyways). But then I remembered… Charles is related to the king of France. Pretty closely, too. (Is there anyone he’s related to that isn’t creepily close?)

Apparently, Charles II spread the idea that his mental and physical disabilities were the result of being hexed, and at one point, he went through the exercise of getting exorcised. Sorry Charles, I can’t image it helped much- I really don’t think witches are at the root of your problems… Somebody needed to have broken out from the familial dating pool a while ago to help you. (But look at that face? How could anyone have resisted anybody with a family likeness to him?)

Unfortunately for him, Charles II was sickly his whole life and died in 1700 at just 35 years old with no heir. Unfortunately for the country he was in charge of, this led to a dynastic crisis and the War of Spanish Succession, where a lot of his Hapsburg relatives fought over which Spanish territories they wanted. The moral of the story here kids is that inbreeding causes war…and uncontrollable drooling. To hit that home, I’ll leave you with another of Charles II of Spain’s portraits.