by Ashley Cowie
King Charles II of Spain,
was the last Habsburg ruler of the Spanish Empire.
He is now best remembered
for his physical disabilities.
Source: TRAJAN 117 / Public Domain
Scientists have proven inbreeding brought about severe facial
deformations and collapsed of one of Europe's most powerful
The royal European
Habsburg family sat on the throne
Holy Roman Empire from
1438-1740 AD and scientists have now proven that,
arranged intermarriage helped build their vast empire, it also
led to their extinction...
Linked with Severe Facial Deformations
Having analyzed the levels of facial deformity in 66 portraits of 15
members of the Habsburg family, lead researcher and geneticist,
Roman Vilas of the University of Santiago de Compostela,
published his findings (Is
the "Habsburg jaw" related to Inbreeding?)
in the journal Annals of Human Biology.
according to the team of researchers, was a prominent facial
deformity that affected the
European royal family after 200
years of inbreeding and until this study it hadn't been clear
whether the family's characteristic jawline had been the result
of inbreeding or not.
After 10 teams of
geneticists and surgeons studied the deformities observed in 11 of
the family portraits and then compared the portraits with known
inbreeding patterns across the family tree, it was established that,
there was indeed a
link between inbreeding and the propensity of observed facial
Habsburg family picture,
Philip IV of Spain, Margaret Theresa of Spain,
Velázquez, and Mariana of Austria.
/ Public Domain )
Armageddon of The Habsburgs
A 2016 article explains that this mega-rich and influential
European dynasty created a
"hermetic reality" involving only those with Habsburg royal blood.
While from outside their
empire everything appeared perfectly fine, their history contains
many shameful and weird episodes leading up to Charles II of
Spain in 1740, who being incapable of producing an heir brought the
ancient family's senior branch, the male line lineage, to an end.
And it completely
collapsed when Charles VI daughter, Maria Theresa von Osterreich,
died in 1780.
The University of Santiago de Compostela researchers have
shown for the first time,
"a clear positive
relationship between inbreeding and the appearance of the
Habsburg jaw", which Professor Vilas and colleagues achieved by
analyzing what are known as the "11 features of the Habsburg
jaw", a condition known in medical circles as 'mandibular
Further to this, the
teams were tasked with analyzing seven features of so-called 'maxillary
deficiency' which causes a prominent lower lip and
lead to mandibular prognathism.
(Richardkiwi / Public Domain )
The End of The
Mandibular prognathism was discovered to have been most
pronounced in Philip IV, King of Spain and Portugal from
1621-1640 AD, but the greatest degree of 'maxillary deficiency' was
found in five members of the family,
"Maximilian I, his
daughter Margaret of Austria, his nephew Charles I of Spain,
Charles' great-grandson Philip IV, and Charles II of Spain".
An account in the Daily Mail
says that based on their new observations the researchers detected a
correlation between mandibular prognathism and maxillary
deficiency which suggests a shared genetic basis, and that
Habsburg jaw should be considered to cover both conditions.
Engraving of Margaret of Austria
/ Public Domain )
The team had studied 11 portraits to get this far, but to assess the
actual degree of inbreeding among members of the Habsburg family the
team looked at the dynasty's wider family tree and more than "6,000
individuals making up some 20 generations" were considered.
Professor Vilas and
colleagues ultimately found a strong relationship between the amount
of inbreeding and each Habsburg's degree of mandibular
The cause of the proposed relationship between inbreeding and the
Habsburg jaw remains unclear...
But the team speculated
that mating occurring between relatives increases the likelihood of
children inheriting two identical forms of one gene, which in effect
'lowers' their overall genetic fitness making these children
susceptible to extreme recessive traits.
In conclusion, while this study is based on known historical
figures, Professor Vilas says inbreeding is still common in some
geographical regions among some religious and ethnic groups,
so it's important today to investigate its effects in the modern
And the team referred to
their study of the Habsburg dynasty as a "kind of human laboratory"
because the range of inbreeding was so high.
But the researchers admit
that having studied such a small number of individuals they cannot
rule out the slender chance that the Habsburg jaw's prevalence in
that great European royal family came about "by pure chance".
Philip IV of the Habsburg family
member who had
greatest degree of maxillary deficiency.
/ Public Domain )