15 Families That Would Win Gold at the Inbreeding Olympics
We’re meant to spread our genetics around — that’s a fairly established thing. However, the nature of certain elements of humanity — greed, isolation, opportunity — mean that sometimes people opt to keep their genetics extremely close and un-spread, breeding with close genetic relatives.
It’s fairly strikingly widespread throughout history, mainly as a way of keeping titles, wealth and power within families for multiple generations rather than allowing it to be diluted by sensible breeding practices. Hardcore inbreeding is like tax evasion and having lots of undriven cars scattered on your property: most common among the very rich and very poor. A lot of royal dynasties have family trees that are hard to draw without folding the paper.
And different times and cultures have viewed such unions differently. The law on cousins marrying still varies state to state, and more than one-tenth of marriages globally are between first or second cousins. Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin and Edgar Allan Poe were all geniuses and all married their cousins (crucially, however, none of them were the products of such a union). It’s when it keeps happening that things start to go a bit peculiar.
The Habsburgs: Not Just Inbred, Chinbred
The Habsburg dynasty ruled most of Europe from the 15th to 18th centuries, and kept the power in the family to the extent that they got reeeeeeeal funny-lookin’, eventually sporting deeply unusual jaws, learning difficulties and genetic disorders. Don’t inbreed!
The Other Habsburgs: Inbred-ibly Similar
An offshoot of the primary Habsburg line, the Spanish Habsburgs (aka the House of Austria) also didn’t like to stray from the primary bloodline, meaning a child born to cousins was as inbred as one born to siblings. Bleak!
The Clapps: Hollywood’s Hunkiest Inbred Is Congenitally Indestructible
It’s not just royalty that does it. While Jackass star Johnny Knoxville (real name: PJ Clapp) is less inbred than most people on this list, he’s significantly more inbred than most regular folks. Might explain the whole “seemingly unkillable” thing.
The Free-Bleeding Romanovs: As Revolting As the Revolters
Inbreeding may have led to the Russian Revolution — Alexei Nikolaevich, the last of the Romanovs, had hemophilia, at least partially caused by generations of excessive closeness. The family employed mysterious monk Rasputin to help, and it all went down from there.
Hawaiian Royalty: Just Not a Good Time for Sibling Relationships
Hawaiian princess Nāhiʻenaʻena was a victim of unfortunate timing — a union with her brother was in keeping with ancient tradition, but missionaries had just converted the population to Christianity. She was excommunicated, only welcomed back shortly before her death.
Cleopatra: Pharoah-ly Inbred
Marriages between siblings were very common in the Ptolemaic dynasty of ancient Egypt, of which Cleopatra is the best-known member. Where most people would have 16 great-great-grandparents, she had six. Until Caesar showed up, she was married to her brother.
Tutankhamun: Tut Tut, Don’t Fuck Your Siblings
1,200 years before Cleopatra, fellow A-list pharoah Tutankhamun was the product of inbreeding: His mom and dad were brother and sister, i.e. also his aunt and uncle. He was weak, frail and sickly. You know, because of inbreeding.
The Whittakers: Born and Raised Oddly in Odd
Odd, West Virginia is home to the Whittaker family, an extremely inbred family, several members of which communicate exclusively in grunts. Asked why their eyes point in different directions, one remarked it was probably due to coal mining. Nope! Incest!
The Blue Fugates: Troublesome Genetics in Troublesome Creek
The Fugate family of Troublesome Creek, Kentucky, were blue. Not sad, blue. They carried the genes for the recessive blueness-inducing blood condition methemoglobinemia, but due to keeping it local, it never receded, and several generations were born Smurf-like.
The Moabs and Ammonites: From a Lot of Bad Behavior
One of the grimmer elements of the Biblical tale of Lot fleeing Sodom and Gomorrah involves his two daughters getting him drunk and fucking him. Their offspring began the Ammonites and Moabites, two long-lasting tribes, but goddamn, that’s unacceptable.
Nero: Crazy, Inbred, Crazy Inbred
Infamously useless violin-playing Roman emperor Nero may have owed some of his legendary insanity to a shallow gene pool — his parents Claudio and Aggripina were uncle and niece, neither of whom were particularly non-inbred themselves.
Manco Cápac: Mysterious, Enigmatic, Into His Sister
Manco Cápac is a figure shrouded in mystery — the founder of the Inca Empire may be conflated from multiple figures. However, the story goes that he married his older sister, Mama Uqllu, and all subsequent Inca rulers descended from them.
The House of Hanover: Blue Pee and Mayhem
George III, known as the mad king, was for decades thought to suffer from porphyria, a condition exacerbated by inbreeding, that causes blue urine, mania and erratic behavior. Current thinking is that he was actually bipolar. The inbreeding? Pure coincidence.
Maria the Mad: Mad Into Her Uncle
Maria I of Portugal — Maria the Pious or the Mad depending on whether you liked her — married her uncle Peter III, making her seven children also her cousins. Later in life she would send bloodcurdling screams through the palace. Unsettling!
The noble German House of Wittelsbach — who married into the Habsburgs at several points — got up to plenty of unusualness, potentially due to inbreeding. Empress Elisabeth exercised obsessively while refusing to speak, while King Ludwig was eventually deposed for “insanity.”