There are very few parts of the world where incest is deemed to be a good idea, and this article isn’t going to embrace incestual practices either. I am sorry for any disappointment that causes.

Attitudes and legislation regarding incest actually vary enormously around the world. Even in Europe legislation is split, with some countries like France permitting incest between consensual adults and others like Ireland willing to dish out life imprisonment for the offence.

Marriage between family members also polarises global opinion on permissible relationships between people with a common bloodline. Here in the United Kingdom, marriages between first cousins are legal – and often observed in Muslim communities – whilst marriage with any other family member, including step and half relatives, is against the law. The United States is split on the matter of cousin marriages with 24 states prohibiting the practice, at least between first cousins. In Saudi Arabia, some estimates state in excess of 70% of marriages are between cousins.

So, let’s take a look at some of History’s most famous, and infamous, cousin marriages;

Charles Darwin

The pioneering biologist Charles Darwin chose to marry his first cousin, Emma Wedgewood, in 1839. Darwin found that, in Emma, he had a devoted wife whom he could freely discuss his ideas on transmutation and natural selection as well as his struggles with religion.


Albert Einstein

The Nobel Prize-winning physicist married his maternal first cousin Elsa Lowenthal after beginning an affair with her whilst married to his first wife, fellow physicist Mileva Maric.

Queen Elizabeth II

Our Queen is married to her second cousin once removed, Prince Philip. He was born into the Greek and Danish royal families but served in the Royal Navy throughout World War Two. At 13, Elizabeth was already smitten with her future husband and the pair became engaged when she was 21.

European Royal Families have always chosen to marry into each other’s dynasties. Such marriages were normally diplomatic in nature, but generations of inbreeding eventually brought huge costs…


Just look at the infamous Habsburg Jaw: