Apropos not very much

17th century European noble culture commonly matched cousin to first cousin and uncle to niece, to preserve a prosperous family\’s properties. Charles\’s own immediate pedigree was exceptionally populated with nieces giving birth to children of their uncles: Charles\’s mother was a niece of Charles\’s father, being a daughter of Maria Anna of Spain (1606–46) and Emperor Ferdinand III. Thus, Empress Maria Anna was simultaneously his aunt and grandmother and Margarita of Austria was both his grandmother and great-grandmother.[1] This inbreeding had given many in the family hereditary weaknesses. That Habsburg generation was more prone to still-births than were peasants in Spanish villages.[2]

There was also insanity in Charles\’s family; his great-great-great(-great-great, depending along which lineage one counts) grandmother, Joanna of Castile (\”Joanna the Mad\”; however, the degree to which her \”madness\” was induced by circumstances of her confinement and political intrigues targeting her is debated), mother of the Spanish King Charles I (who was also Holy Roman Emperor Charles V) became insane early in life. Joanna was two of Charles\’ 16 great-great-great-grandmothers, six of his 32 great-great-great-great-grandmothers, and six of his 64 great-great-great-great-great-grandmothers.

Dating to approximately the year 1550, outbreeding in Charles II\’s lineage had ceased (see also pedigree collapse). From then on, all his ancestors were in one way or another descendants of Joanna the Mad and Philip I of Castile, and among these just the royal houses of Spain, Austria and Bavaria. Charles II\’s genome was actually more homozygous than that of an average child whose parents are siblings.

14 thoughts on “Apropos not very much”

  1. Perhaps if we look closely at the pedigree of our political masters we may well find injudicious breeding. Something has to account for the totally irresponsible some would say insane way they govern us.

  2. Anitsthenes, I think that’s a tautology. The politicians in question are alive, ergo there’s been injudicious breeding.

  3. @Vir Cantium,

    Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view) maternity is basically never in doubt and a female married to a royal would have little to gain and everything to lose from getting impregnated by someone other than their husband. And the doubtless numerous (and hybridly vigorous) illegitimate offspring of the royal males would have had no chance of contributing to the royal bloodline. Unless, I suppose, Kate is Philip’s scion, but then that just makes things worse.

  4. “17th century European noble culture commonly matched cousin to first cousin and uncle to niece, to preserve a prosperous family’s properties”: what an extraordinarily silly generalisation.

  5. And yet, as someone pointed out about Otto (von etc etc)’s funeral recently – how much better off the lands of the Hapsburgs would have been if he had taken the throne instead of the people who actually did – Hitler, Stalin and so on.

    There may be something to be said for inbreeding.

  6. Funny you should post this … I had researched much the same stuff about a year ago when my 11 year old started asking me questions about what happens when you inbreed humans (motivated by “The Simpsons”) … and why Spain was so dominant in 500 years ago (motivated by his social studies class) ON THE SAME DAY!

    So … I thought … Cool! … I can answer two sets of kids questions by referencing one topic in Wikipedia!

    BTW: looking at the paintings of the Hapsburgs is pretty frightening stuff.

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