From the royal courts of Renaissance Europe to the rock stars of the '60s, these famous cases of incest will make your skin crawl.
Taboos are rarely black and white. While one person or group may consider a certain act socially unacceptable or downright immoral, another may see it simply as a part of life. Incest, for one, has long remained one of the world’s most unmentionable taboos.
Nevertheless, some especially interesting cases of famous incest—from the royal families of Ancient Egypt to celebrities of the 20th century—demonstrate that there always have been and always will be people willing to climb the family tree to reach forbidden fruit.
Charles Darwin was the father of evolution, author of On the Origin of Species, and a faithful husband to Emma Wedgwood Darwin, his first cousin.
Together, the couple had ten children, three of which died at a young age. Of the seven children that lived, three were infertile (Darwin thoroughly recorded the status of his health and the health of his family).
When his children fell ill, he referred to his writings of inbred plants, and feared his children inherited weaknesses due to the past incest between his and Emma’s families.
Researchers looked at four generations of Darwin and Wedgwood families and discovered many consanguineous marriages on both sides. As Darwin feared, the similarity between the Wedgwood and Darwin genetic lines contributed to his children’s health issues.
Famous Family Incest Stories: King Tut
When the tomb of King Tutankhamun–likely the most widely known figure in the history of ancient Egypt–was discovered in 1922, extensive press coverage made the handsome, shining likeness of the pharaoh’s face, featured on his sarcophagus, internationally famous.
Until recently, Tutankhamun’s cause of death had been a mystery. Historians speculated that his short life might have ended in a tragic chariot accident or even murder, but recent scientific research claims otherwise.
A virtual autopsy, using more than 2,000 scans of Tutankhamun’s mummy, reveal a more accurate image of the 19-year-old’s body.
Despite his iconography, wide feminine hips, a pronounced overbite, and a clubfoot are some of Tutankhamun’s actual physical features. The cause? DNA analysis reveals that he was the product of incest. Because of this, he also suffered from temporal lobe epilepsy, malaria, and the extremely painful Kohler disease—all of which may have ultimately led to his death.
Incest was encouraged within the Egyptian royal families to maintain purity within the bloodline. As the evidence shows, the congenital side effects of incest can be devastating.
Further proof: Tutanhkamun was himself in an incestuous marriage with his half-sister Ankhesenamun. She bore two stillborn daughters.