Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace
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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Incest Within Royal Families & Consanguinity Laws

Royal families throughout history were known for inbreeding...They wanted their lines to be pure royal so. What better way than to literally have it remain within the family?

Here's some of what I found...

Manuel I was married to Isabella, the eldest daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella (parents of Catherine of Aragon also) and when she died giving birth to their son, he married her sister Maria of Aragon who bore him 10 children... so remember Henry VIII getting the dispensation to marry his brother's widow, I guess it was just normal to do all this intermarrying!


In 1543, Phillip II of Spain, married Mary of Portugal who bore him a son, Don Carlos aka Prince Carlos of Asturias. Mary died in 1545 a few days after giving birth. Prince Carlos was said to be fragile and deformed. He also began to show signs of mental instability toward his adult years, and his behavior became increasingly erratic. Even still in 1560 he was named heir to the Castilian throne and in 1563 heir to the throne of Aragon. His mental instability increased along with a drinking problem. He was extremely hateful of his father and suspected of contemplating his father’s murder. In 1568, he planned to escape Spain and his father, however, Philip had his son thrown into solitary confinement. He died later that year…but why? There was for a long time rumors of poison, and even some going so far as to accuse Philip of ending his own son’s life. However, some believe he died of natural causes or illness.

What is the reason for all of his mental/deformity issues? Inbreeding! Here’s a perfect example, normally a person has 8 great-grandparents and 16 great-great-grandparents…Carlos had 4 and 6! His maternal grandmother Catherine of Hapsburg and his paternal grandfather Charles V, Holy Roman Emporer were brother and sister. His maternal grandfather John III of Portugal and paternal grandmother Isabella of Portugal were also brother and sister. Joanna of Castile, his great-grandmother was sister to his grandmother Maria of Aragon…

Anne Boleyn was tried, found guilty and sentenced to death--one of the accusations against her being incest with her brother--although it was never proven.

Consanguinity is how close in relations you are, and it was grounds for annullment in the Roman Catholic Church. From 1550 - 1917 marriages within the 4th degree, or beyond third cousins were prohibited, but as we've witnessed through several cases, these relationships easily recieved dispensations from the Pope. Payment to the church was required to recieve a dispensation. So essentially it was about the money. But it was also about avoiding strife. Some documented reasons from The Formulary of Dataria (Rome, 1901) for granting dispensation are:

"smallness of place or places; smallness of place coupled with the fact that outside it a sufficient dowry cannot be had; lack of dowry; insufficiency of dowry for the bride; a larger dowry; an increase of dowry by one-third; cessation of family feuds; preservation of peace; conclusion of peace between princes or states; avoidance of lawsuits over an inheritance, a dowry or some important business transaction; the fact that a fiancée is an orphan or has the care of a family; the age of the fiancée over twenty-four; the difficulty of finding another partner, owing to the fewness of male acquaintance, or the difficulty the latter experience in coming to her home; the hope of safeguarding the faith of a Catholic relation; the danger of a denominationally mixed marriage; the hope of converting a non-Catholic party; the keeping of property in a family; the preservation of an illustrious or honourable family; the excellence and merits of the parties; defamation to be avoided, or scandal prevented; intercourse already having taken place between the petitioners, or rape; the danger of a civil marriage; of marriage before a Protestant minister revalidation of a marriage that was null and void; finally, all reasonable causes judged such in the opinion of the pope (e. g. the public good), or special reasonable causes actuating the petitioners and made known to the pope, i. e. motives which, owing to the social status of the petitioners, it is opportune should remain unexplained out of respect for their reputation."

For more on today's Canon Laws visit these links:

Consanguinity (starts with 108): http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/__PC.HTM

Dispensable laws:(starts with 1091): http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/__P3Y.HTM

Even though there was a lot of inbreeding throughout Europe, Spain and Portugal were the worst going so far as to marry aunts, uncles, neices, nephews, etc... whereas in the rest of Europe it was usually cousins.

Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Philip are 2nd cousins once removed from King Christian IX of Denmark, and third cousins through Queen Victoria.

I think the major reason for it all, is because royals marry other royals, so somewhere along the line you will find you're related to someone. And a lot of times they marry for political reasons, to keep peace and property, so if they'd had a marriage in place already that ended in death or for whatever reason, they may offer another marriage to keep their pact.

What do you think about it?


19 comments:

Gwynlyn MacKenzie said...

Guess the whole term "Blue Blood" actually means unclean and lacking oxygen.

The proliferation of various genetic and neurologic disorders within the royal families has been well documented---now that they have been diagnosed and recognized, of course. One would think the church would have upheld the biblical teaching, but you are right---it's all about the money.

On the other hand, Hawaaiian Royals married siblings as well---long before Christianity made its way to the South Pacific do the whole "blood" thing seems to span cultures and religions.

Emma Lai said...

If you want to read about incest and royalty, check out the Hapsburgs...rulers of The Holy Roman Empire. The examples you listed were also part of the Hapsburg family. The family was intent on keeping control of every country they ruled. There's even an instance of a grandfather "married" to his granddaughter. (Back then it wasn't uncommon to have stand ins for the groom.) http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/revealed-the-inbreeding-that-ruined-the-hapsburgs-1668857.html

There is even such a thing as the Hapsburg lip...one of the kings was so misformed, it is said he had to swallow his food whole!

Kelly Bishop said...

And then there's the Ptolemy family. They were very busy either marrying or murdering each other (sometimes both). Gives a whole new meaning to family get togethers!

The marriages involved brother & sister and I believe sometimes parent & child.

Ick!

Kelly B.

Margaret Tanner said...

Terrific article, makes for fascinating reading, but in reality this in-breeding is a scary thing.

Regards
Margaret

Skhye said...

Great post. Check out the scandalous marriages among the Egyptian pharoah families... Aren't humans funny? LOLLL ~the anthropologist

Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

Well, I think the main reason for the 'in-family' marriage was, as pointed out, power, control and money. Often if a woman died, the husband would have to give back the dowry. To keep from having to do that, he'd marry his wife's sister. It's actually surprising there weren't more deformaties, then again, maybe not all the children born of the queen were the king's....some could have been the advisor's......

I have a book "A Treasury of Royal Scandals." Very interesting stories. Evidently, Queen Victoria greatly disliked her children, but most especially, the heir Prince Edward.

Interesting post

Denisse Alicea said...

What a history lesson! Thanks for sharing this info Eliza. It explains a lot about monarachs!

Eliza Knight said...

Thanks Gwynlyn! I had no idea about the Hawaaiians...

Wow Emma! Thank you :)

Kelly how horrible! Thank you for the comment!

lol, so true Margaret!

Thanks Skhye! I will...and yes they are!

Thanks Anna! I agree. I have that book, I read it several years ago, I'll have to break it out again!

Doesn't it? Thanks Denise!

Kathy Otten said...

I was confused about the normal person having 8 grandparents. I only have 4, my mother's parents and my fathers parents. That gives me 8 great grand parents not 16. Am I missing something?

Eliza Knight said...

Thanks Kathy! Good catch! I fixed it :) I meant 8 great-grandparents and 16 great-great-grandparents... We'd all be in trouble with my original post huh? lol.

Jody said...

Wasn't just Royals either, the interbreeding of noble families in Scotland had gotten so bad that many families were chosing the alternative: irregular marriages- marriage by declaration, NOT HANDFASTING but by declaring themselves married and then living as a married couple.
Things were so crazy that Wm Sinclair who had built the now famous Rosslyn Chapel had to get a dispensation to make his marriage (first wife) Elizabeth Douglas legal and the children of that marriage legit. See Elizabeth's Godmother was Wm's mother and acccording to the affinity and consanquinity laws that was too close. Crazy when you think first cousin ( who definitely share blood) could marry for a long time in the British Isles.

Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

I read somewhere that it is actually legal in some states for an uncle to marry his niece! Interesting article Eliza. When I was in London, I went to see the recent Charles Darwin exhibit, and they mentioned that Darwin was concerned about couples who were too closely related marrying, and he married his first cousin! I think that this is why so many modern royals are marrying commoners, get some new blood into the bloodlines.

Eliza Knight said...

Wow Jody, thanks for sharing! So they weren't even blood related and it was tough! Crazy...

Elizabeth, I've heard of that too, isn't that just horrible??? And I totally agree, they need some fresh blood!

J Fraser said...

Maria of Aragon was Carlos' great-grandmother, not grandmother. His two great-grandmothers were sisters.

As his parents were double first cousins and each parent was also a product of first cousin unions, Carlos' parents are more related to each other than half-siblings.

To go off on a mini-tangent, After his Carlos' mother's death, his father Phillip II married a first cousin once removed - "Bloody" Mary Tudor, Queen of England. After Mary's death, Phillip II married his NIECE (who was actually more related to him than that due to previous family inbreeding) and they had 5 children.

Keldar said...

It wasn't just royalty that married cousins. My great grandparents were cousins. Fortunately their children did not marry cousins. To my knowledge, that is.

But their parents were cousins and their grandparents were cousins, and their great grandparents were brothers and sisters. We had two brothers marrying ladies. The ladies were sisters. One sister had a daughter that married one of the sons of one of the brothers. The other sister had a son that married one of the daughters of one of the brothers.

It's a very confusing family tree, we kept looping around. A cousin I discovered while researching my family tree once told me, 'our family tree doesn't branch out, it just keeps going to the same limb'.

Gotta love it.

Anonymous said...

I’m sorry but I have to tell you that your knowledge in consanguinity and inbreeding of the Royal dynasties of the Early Modern Age is very basic.
If you want to learn more please read about Inbreeding and check this research paper: http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0005174. I’m Francisco C. Ceballos, one of the Authors.

For your information all European Dynasties were very inbreed, but the Austrian Habsburg were the most inbred. Please, learn more before you talk about anything!!!!

Eliza Knight said...

There is really no need to be rude. This post is meant to be a basic background. And yes you are right about incest within in most royal families, but especially within the Habsburgs (which I believe the article aludes to this fact).

ashley said...

Obviously it is basic, this is a short article talking about a lot of history...what kind of idiot is so rude to point that out, give a paper that he or she thinks is better, and then can't even look at a grammar check??? "European Dynasties were very inbreed"??? Please, learn English before you insult someone one their own post.

Anonymous said...

This was an interesting, if basic, article (by the author's own admission). If I had wanted to read an academic paper on the subject I would have gone to the British Library. You, sir, are a pompous idiot.

On a lighter note, thank you Eliza for a thought-provoking piece,