#33: Habless Habsburgs

33.1  I had intended that to be “Hapless Hapsburgs,” only to discover that I’d gotten the name wrong all these years. Not that I thought about them more than once or twice in 60 years…but still, that can happen when you’re very nearly culturally literate. In any event, today as promised, we touch upon the poster child for the inadvisability of going overboard in the interbreeding department…the last of the Habsburg line, Charles II of Spain…”Carlos” to his countrymen.

33.2  The most famous example of a genetic disorder aggravated by royal family intermarriage…this is how you’ll commonly find it put forth. So what was his disorder? Better to ask, what wasn’t? This poor soul was messed up, starting with his misshapen, overly large head. It’s thought this was due in part to acromegaly, topped off (bottomed out?) by the “Habsburg jaw,” what we’d call today mandibular prognathism. The 2 portraits below tell the story, and in the middle is a modern example of this malformation. The braces on the teeth are there to align and straighten them…the actual “cure” will be an operation to literally move the lower jaw back to meet the upper…something obviously impossible in the 17th century. It is said that Charles could not chew his food, his tongue was so large that his speech was nearly unintelligible, and he drooled.


33.3  But unlike typical acromegaly, the rest of his body was underdeveloped, making it difficult for him to walk. Thus, he did not talk at all until age 5, was wet-nursed till 6, and did not walk until 8. Liver disease, weak bones, epilepsy, endocrine & pituitary disfunction, and likely congenital syphilis complicated his dour existence. When he died at age 39, he was bald, toothless, lame, deaf, nearly blind, and prone to dizziness, spasms, and hallucinations. Needless to say, despite 2 marriages, he left no heirs, leading to the War of the Spanish Succession*. Says one historian: His brief life consisted chiefly of a passage from prolonged infancy to premature senility.

* Which lasted 13 years and involved most of the major powers of Europe, including the British. It was fought between those who wished to unify the kingdoms of France and Spain under the Bourbons, and those who did not. It even spilled over into North America as Queen Anne’s War, the 2nd of the 4 French and Indian Wars. Anyway, guess who won?

33.4  Having run through Charles’ physical woes, I find accounts of his mental capacity less satisfactory. He is routinely characterized as being severely disabled, both mentally and emotionally…some commentators going so far as to employ the dreaded “r-word.” But was he retarded in the modern sense? True, his education was neglected and he could barely read or write, altho he was at least able to compose coherent letters to relatives and friends. And I find 2 passages from Uncle Wiki interesting: His unfitness for rule meant he was often ignored and power during his reign became the subject of court intrigues and foreign influence. “Often ignored” means sometimes he was not ignored, correct?

33.5  And this: Toward the end of his life, in one of his few independent acts as King, Charles created a Junta Magna (Great Council) to examine and investigate the Spanish Inquisition. Good for him, and I say that with all sincerity and not a speck of sarcasm. And maybe it’s just me, but these do not sound like the words of an imbecile: Many people tell me I am bewitched, and I well believe it, such are the things I experience and suffer. Oddly enough, his one occasional vigorous activity was the sport of shooting, on the royal preserves at Escorial.

chart charles

33.6   And the cause of it all was interbreeding…experts in both genetics and genealogy have hashed his pedigree out across 16 generations, comprising more than 2000 individuals. I am starting with the above immediate family tree…not my own work, so I have not given it a chart number as I usually do. What I did do in redrawing it was to eliminate anyone who had no other relatives besides descendants, and switched to a “Family Tree” format, making it easier to trace lines thru parents, as Chart 112

chart 112

33.7  Let’s face it, I had to work with something, and this was what I chose, more or less arbitrarily. I am confident that is it completely adequate to the task at hand. At the same time, I have since discovered (16 generations, after all!) that there was much more to it…for example, the founders of this immediate line, Philip of Castile and Mad Joan, were themselves related in numerous ways. As well, Isabella of Portugal, whom I left off Chart 112…wife of Charles V, upper far left…turns out to be Mad Joan’s niece, the daughter of her sister, hence her husband’s 1st cousin.

33.8  And exactly what should be the “task at hand”? Deducing how each of these 24 individuals was related to the others would be a fine exercise, but way beyond the scope of this blog…as indeed would be simply relating Charles II himself to each of the other 23, such are the complications. To give you one example…

chart 113

33.9  I have modified Chart 112 as Chart 113, replacing the names for ease of reference…the letters represent generations, or approximately so, since some of these folks are members of 2 generations simultaneously. We’ll look at Charles II or CII (G) and William V (C3). C3 is CII’s 2G grandfather (1), being the grandfather of CII’s grandfather E3. But C3 is also the uncle of D3, who is E3’s father. So C3 is E3’s grand uncle as well as grandfather. Thus C3 is also CII’s 2G grand uncle (2). 

33.10  Now C3 is D3’s uncle thru D3’s mother…on the other side, D3’s father is C3’s uncle, so C3 and D3 are also 1st cousins, making C3 and CII 1st cousins 3 times removed (3). Then going back to the far right of the tree, C3 and his wife C4 are themselves 2nd cousins, making C3 and CII 2nd cousins 4 times removed (4), since C3 is the 2nd cousin of CII’s 2G grandmother C4 (and of course C4 is CII’s 2nd cousin 4 times removed as well.) Those certainly give you a taste of it…

chart 114

33.11  It all boils down to relatives marrying each other, as indicated in Chart 114. Unions #1, #3, and #8 are uncle/niece unions…#1 is also between 1C 1R…#2 is 1st cousins…#4 is 2nd cousins…#5 are related in 6 ways, ranging from 1st cousins to 2C 1R…and so on. This did not happen because “they were in love”…big surprise…but to retain and concentrate the power of the House of Habsburg. After the C generation, there is no outbreeding or “new blood” in Charles’ direct line. And those uncle-niece marriages…not even a remote possibility by modern standards of decorum, at least not around here…really did some job.

33.12  Consider: if you are the offspring, then your mother is also your 1st cousin. Your grandmother is also your aunt, and your father is your grand uncle. Your grandparents thru your father are also your great grandparents thru your mother. And if you are Charles II, it goes even further…your maternal grandfather is also your 1C 1R thru your father and 1C 2R thru your mother…making both your father and your maternal grandmother your 1C 2R as well…and so forth up the tree.

33.13  I should mention that while poor Carlos bore the brunt of all this nonsense, he wasn’t the only one…the infant mortality in the generations immediately preceding him was alarmingly high, even for those days. At any rate, what I have decided to do today is examine the claim that Charles II’s parents E1 and F were more closely related than siblings, which is to say, they had a Coefficient of Relationship greater than ½ or .500.

33.14  At first, this appears to be a daunting task, but while it is indeed a tedious calculation, it is not really very complicated in principle. You simply trace, for both Charles’ father and mother, all the different paths leading from them back to the common ancestor, in this case Philip of Castile/Mad Joan. This is shown in Charts 115 and 116. There are 5 paternal paths and 9 maternal ones.

chart 115chart 11633.15  Then, you determine how E1 and F are related thru each pair of paths, one of the father’s matched with one of the mother’s. Does this mean they are related in 5 x 9 = 45 distinct ways? Ordinarily, yes. But here, owing to that nasty uncle-niece connection, 5 pairs may be eliminated. These are the ones where the 2 paths beyond either Charles’ father E1 or his sister E2 are identical. Paternally, that would be Father/Mother path pairs 1/1, 2/2, and 3/3…and maternally, 4/4 and 5/5. These are not actually disregarded, but are instead subsumed by the uncle-niece relationship which, plus the remaining 40, gives you 41…like I said, time consuming, but straightforward enough.

33.16  So I did the math. And once again, I fall back on my old theme-song that if I were getting paid for this, I’d quadruple-check it…instead, I merely double-checked, and did find one small error.  Bottom line: by my calculations, the CR between Charles’ parents is .52615…which sure as shootin’ is greater than .500. And notice that almost half of that is due to the uncle-niece CR of .250. The remaining .27615 is made up by the other 40 relationships…as they say, Little and often fills the purse.

33.17  And for the record, those 40 are: 1C 1R (2 ways)…2C 1R (1 way)…2C 2R (4 ways)…3C (6 ways)…3C 1R (7 ways)…3C 2R (7 ways)…4C (4 ways)…and finally 4C 1R (9 ways.)

33.18  Of course, that’s based only on the subset of relatives I started with…and since these are the closest, further increments would be small, tho not insignificant, given the tangled tendrils of the Habless Habsburgs. Till next week, peace and love…


Copyright © 2011 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved


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