Why did royalty often have strange looks and were infertile?

Why did royalty often have strange looks and were infertile?

Fairy tales, legends, cartoons, and other creations of careless human genius paint princes and princesses as the most charming, dignified, and handsome persons in the world. However, stubborn historical facts show that this view is disastrously far from the truth. Monarchs were usually unsightly-looking; they were also obsessed with power and tried their best not to let it out of their hands.

One of the ways of keeping power in the family looked simply disgusting to ordinary people. We are talking about marriages with blood relatives (when cousins, uncles and nieces and other relatives went to the wedding). Genetic defects were the other side of the desire to retain the throne. They were rare among the common people, but they were so common among monarchs that sometimes one could unmistakably guess the owner of “blue bloods” by their presence.

Why did royalty often have strange looks and were infertile?

Maria Louise of Orleans, Queen of Spain 1662-1669.

Habsburg’s Jaw

Representatives of the Habsburg dynasty sat on the throne of many European countries: from Portugal to Transylvania. One branch even made its way to Mexico. These people were famous for their special ability to conclude lucrative marriages.

Very often such unions were incestuous, so at some point members of the family developed a characteristic and disgusting-looking facial deformity called the “Habsburg’s Jaw”.

Why did royalty often have strange looks and were infertile?

Carl II, Carl V, and Philip IV of the Habsburgs (from left to right).

The monarchs who inherited it were distinguished by a disproportionately large lower jaw, a thick lower lip, a long nose and a very large tongue that did not fit into the mouth.

Males of Habsburg dinasty were more often the owners of the horrible features, while females were not so pronounced. The most severe case of this kind was undoubtedly that of King Carl II of Spain, who could hardly speak and drooled all the time.


The vast majority of people on the planet don’t pay much attention to cuts. It hurts, but then it will heal and go away. But for hemophiliacs, even small injuries of this kind are fatal (because their bodies don’t produce enough clotting factors). If blood begins to leak or ooze in hemophiliac cuts, it does not stop naturally.

The disease is recessive, so it is extremely rare in normal human populations – for it to manifest itself, carriers of the corresponding gene must be both parents. But the royal families of Europe that practiced consanguinity did not have any problems with the production of unsuccessful pieces of DNA.

Why did royalty often have strange looks and were infertile?

Queen Victoria. Portrait by Franz Xavier Winterhalter (1859).

Queen Victoria of England, who married her cousin Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, especially distinguished herself in spreading hemophilia. From her, the disease was transmitted to representatives of several monarchs’ courts, including the Russian one. It is well known that Tsesarevich Alexei, son of Nicholas II, had hemophilia.


Hydrocephalus is a disease that causes an accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain.

Its carriers were, in particular, representatives of the Spanish royal family. They often gave birth to children with disproportionately large heads, who subsequently suffered from delayed physical development, muscle atrophy, impaired coordination of movements and seizures.

Why did royalty often have strange looks and were infertile?

Portrait of William Danish.

Hydrocephalus also manifested itself in the British monarchy, particularly in William Danish, son of Anne Stuart. The story of this queen in general is the clearest example of the inadmissibility of marriage with relatives. She married her cousin, George of Denmark, and over a period of two decades became pregnant by him 17 times.

Because of the extreme genetic similarity of the spouses, the Queen miscarried on twelve occasions, four of the children born died in infancy, and only one managed to survive to the age of eleven. That was William, who had hydrocephalus. The Stuart dynasty ended there, by the way.

Defects of limb development

Royalty had been practicing marriages with close relatives for thousands of years before the emergence of monarchies in Great Britain, Spain, and indeed in most of Europe. It was very common, for example, in ancient Egypt.

In an attempt to preserve the purity of their nearly divine blood, Egyptian rulers tried to find a couple in the kinship circle, which resulted in the same freaks.

Why did royalty often have strange looks and were infertile?

Reconstruction of Tutankhamun’s appearance and physique.

The example of Tutankhamun, one of the most famous Egyptian pharaohs, seems indicative of the region. Modern scientists, examining his mummy, “diagnosed” that he had a cleft palate and a serious deformation of the feet. The ruler also had a noticeably elongated skull.

His father was Ehnaton, who was married to Nefertiti, but Tutankhamun was not born to the queen, but most likely to his aunt, that is, to his father’s sister. Mixing at such a close level of kinship is practically a guarantee of various physical abnormalities, which apparently took place in the case of poor Tutankhamun, who suffered unbearably all his life and died before he even reached the age of twenty.


The aforementioned king of Spain, Carl II the Enchanted, married twice, but could never produce an heir. He was infertile, as were many other possessors of “blue bloods” whose ancestors tried to interbreed in a narrow family circle.

Why did royalty often have strange looks and were infertile?

Portrait of Carl II.

You already know about the sad fate of Queen Anne Stuart, who outlived her 17 offspring. History teaches nothing to these kings and queens! This situation is so comical that we really don’t pity them at all.

Why did royalty often have strange looks and were infertile?

Portrait of Anne Stuart.

The main vital function of any monarch is to produce offspring to whom power can be transferred. However, due to greed, misunderstanding of simple truths and shortsightedness, they deprived themselves of the opportunity to reproduce like normal people. This, in turn, caused strife and even wars over the inheritance of this or that childless monarch.

In some ways, however, this sterility was still a good thing. By failing to pass on defective genes to their descendants, they took them “out of evolutionary turnover”. Carl II, for example, did not “gift” anyone else his disgusting jaw.

Developmental delays

History confirms many facts that royalty were not as smart as they wanted to seem. Moreover, many of the monarchs had retarded mental faculties.

Why did royalty often have strange looks and were infertile?

Portraits of King Philip IV of Spain and Mariana of Austria.

The aforementioned Carl II uttered his first word at the age of four, but did not learn to walk until he was eight! He was born into the union of Philip IV and Marianne of Austria, who were not only husband and wife, but also uncle and niece. Marriages with relatives in this family had been practiced for generations, so the result was extremely sad.

The genetic similarity between the parents of Carl II was greater than that of the siblings. This does not necessarily mean reduced mental ability in the offspring, but automatically increases the likelihood of passing on recessive genes associated with low IQ and cognitive impairment. This means that royalty inherit not only physical deformities, but also mental illnesses.

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