One Of Europe’s Most Powerful Dynasties Was Destroyed By Inbreeding
The House of Hapsburg was one of the most influential families in history. They ruled the throne of Holy Roman Empire for 300 years continuously between 1438 and 1740.
The House takes its name from Haspburg fortress built in the 1020s in present-day Switzerland by Count Radbot of Klettgau, who chose to name his fortress Habsburg and later his grandson Otto II annexed the fortress’ name as his own.
Charles II was the last Hapsburg ruler of Spain. The house replaced by the House of Bourbon. Charles was noted for his many physical and mental disabilities. American historians Will and Ariel Durant described Charles II as “short, lame, epileptic, senile, and completely bald before 35, although he was married twice and had a lengthy, 30-year reign. Charles was incapable of producing any heirs. He is regarded as a grotesque reflection of Spain’s decline and a prototypical product of dynastic inbreeding. Back then, his ailments were ascribed to witchcraft, and he was known as Charles the Hexed. Now we know it was because of severe inbreeding. By the time of Charles’s birth there had been many generations of inbreeding within the Spanish royal house; The practice of first-cousin and uncle-niece marriages was common among 17th-century European nobility, intended to preserve prosperous families’ properties. The Habsburgs were an extreme case of this; they had won their extensive holdings mostly through marriages and were determined to keep others from turning the tables on them.
A team of scientists used genealogical information from 3,000 Hapsburg family members spanning 16 generations and established an inbreeding coefficient (F). It denoted the probability of inheriting similar genes from both parents. Philip I, founder of the dynasty, had an (F) of 0.025. Charles II had an (F) of 0.254, 10 times larger.
Charles was far from the only Hapsburg with an abnormally high inbreeding coefficient. Due to this deficiency, only half of the family’s children lived more than a year. This was at a time when even children in Spanish villages had an 80 percent chance of seeing their first birthday.