The Habsburgs, their history and genetics

Yesterday I featured a painting I took of a Dutch Still Life in the National Gallery in London. Today I want to feature one of the paintings in the Gallery with royalty as a subject. Specifically, Habsburg royalty. If you don’t know anything about the Habsburgs, you might look at this painting and say: his chin is a bit odd. If you did, you would be correct! As this piece shows, centuries of inbreeding among European royals (specifically the Habsburgs) was responsible for famous facial deformities seen in historical paintings. And so you get facial features like those above (or worse). 

This is not a terribly ancient behavior: Queen Elizabeth and her husband were third cousins. So it’s not like the Habsburgs were outliers. (See also: Romanovs.) It is a behavior that can cause terrible genetic deformities, though. Deformities that the Royal Family worried about, if the stories of the Bowen-Lyon sisters locked away are any indication.

In the end such deformities in the Spanish Habsburg led to the War of the Spanish Succession, a major turning point in Europe and the World. All due to inbreeding throughout the ages. Inbreeding you can see in the portrait above.






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