Simanaitis Says

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YESTERDAY WE RECOUNTED origins of the Habsburg’s 1000-year dynasty. Today in Part 2, we learn how nearly two centuries of inbreeding led to its royal downfall, not to say a protruding lower jaw. 

What About That Jaw? As noted by Gina Dimuro in “The Habsburg Jaw and the Cost of Royal Inbreeding,” in All That’s Interesting, “While marriages between biological relatives were common in the ruling houses of Europe well up until the last century (Queen Elizabeth II actually married her own third cousin), the Spanish Habsburgs engaged in the practice with particularly dangerous abandon. In fact, nine out of the 11 total marriages that occurred among them during the 184 years they ruled Spain from 1516 to 1700 were incestuous.”

Charles II, 1661–1700, King of Spain 1665–1700,  “El Hechizado, The Bewitched,” the last Habsburg ruler of Spain.

As described in Wikipedia, “Pathologic mandibular prognathism is a potentially disfiguring genetic disorder where the lower jaw outgrows the upper, resulting in an extended chin and crossbite.” At its most extreme, eating or speaking may be difficult.

Some Devout, Others Less So. LRB reviewer Mount writes, “The Habsburgs’ collaboration with the papacy in driving the Counter-Reformation was undoubtedly their most remarkable and enduring achievement.… Yet not all Habsburgs were devout. Maximilian II and Rudolf II had both been lukewarm if not agnostic and had both refused the Mass, even on their deathbeds. Two centuries later, Joseph II began his reign by making marriage a civil contract and suspending the edicts persecuting non-Catholics that had been introduced by his mother, Maria Theresa.”

Joseph Benedict Anthony Michael Adam, 1741–1790, Holy Roman Emperor, 1965–1790. Portrait by Anton von Maron.

It was Emperor Joseph II who famously told Mozart, “Dear fellow, there are in fact only so many notes an ear can hear in an evening.” Or at least he said so in the movie Amadeus.

A Maria Theresa Quip. Maria Theresa, Joseph II’s mother, was a piece of work. Mount cites her as imposing one of frequent taxes on her subjects and saying, “The Crown expressly commands you to grant these sums voluntarily.” 

Maria Theresa Walburga Amalia Christina, 1717–1780, the only female ruler of the Habsburg dominions. Portrait by Martin van Meytens.

Maria Theresa was the last of the House of Habsburg; her offspring formally are the House of Habsburg-Lorraine. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2020  

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