9+ Famous cousin marriages (that shocked everyone)

In this blog post, we will present to you 9+ cases of famous cousin marriages that shocked everyone, in some cases, even the partners themselves did not know about their family origins.  

Famous cousin marriages that you may not know about

In the past, it was not so uncommon to marry your cousin, sibling-in-law or even your brother. Below you will read 9+ cases of famous cousin marriages. I guarantee that some of them will surprise you. 

Jerry Lee Lewis

The rock’n’roll pioneer and interpreter of the immortal ‘Great Balls of Fire’ was a star in the mid and late 1950s. He preferred to marry his cousin Myra Gale Brown. However, their relationship did not last long and they were separated after a few years: in the process, the career of the “Assassin”, as his fans call him, suffered a major setback.

Kevin Bacon

An old internet joke tells us that everyone is six degrees from Kevin Bacon. This also applies to his real life, since he married Kyra Sedgwick, who is his distant cousin. Of course: this was discovered years later, thanks to a TV program that investigated family trees.

Charles Darwin

The naturalist and creator of the theory of evolution was not too familiar with the dangers of marriage between first cousins. Or he ignored them, guided by his heart, when he married his primary cousin Emma. They had 10 children, all without major problems. 

Albert Einstein

A character that needs no introduction. At the time of his marriage, Einstein opted for the comfort of the familiar and married Elsa, his second cousin. It came from the family, since they were cousins on the part of both mother (first cousins) and father (second cousins). Inbreeding record!

Rudy Giuliani

Giuliani is arguably the most famous New York mayor in history. He had to deal with the 9/11 tragedy, and he would appear again and again on televisions around the world. 

His love life was much more peaceful, marrying his third cousin Regina Peruggi in 1968. Years later they discovered that they were actually second cousins. The marriage lasted 40 years and Giuliani used this information to get annulment by the church.

 Jesse James

A true legend of the west immortalized in a thousand movies and novels by a tough guy. The character, a fearless outlaw, also had his heart for love, which he held in the arms of his cousin Zelda Amanda Mimms. 

Edgard Alan Poe

The famous writer of gothic horror stories also enters our list for marrying Virginia Clemn, his 13-year-old cousin, whom he fell in love with after moving to live with his aunt, after the death of his mother. In this case, and since the girl was minor to marry, they had to falsify the papers to make her pretend to be over 21.

Satyajit Ray

Ray is one of the best known Indian directors in the West. His famous Apu Trilogy made him a study figure, praised by moviegoers around the world and who are never lacking in big city movies. Ray chose to marry his cousin Bijoya in a ceremony that, as Hindu tradition dictates, lasted his good 3 days.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt

The longest-serving president of the United States, the only one who chose to be elected four times. And the only one who married his cousin Margaret, in the fifth grade in this case. A family of ancestry, as shown by his parents … were also relatives.

H.G. Wells

Another writer of the late nineteenth century considered the father of science fiction and author of such influential classics as ‘The War of the Worlds’ or ‘The Time Machine’. His creativity was not carried over to the emotional issue and he decided to pair up with his cousin Isabel Mary Wells, who left him after just three years.

Mario Vargas Llosa

The Peruvian Nobel winner takes our special mention. Because the most important women in Vargas Llosa’s life have been direct relatives: first, his aunt, then his first cousin. With both, he was married.

First with Aunt Julia Urquidi who had twelve years of experience. She was recently divorced and saw in her the possibility of momentarily freeing herself from an ultra-conservative family where even the topic of “sex” was a taboo subject. Then he fell in love and married his cousin Patricia Llosa Urquidi, nine years his junior, which allowed him to devote himself body and soul to the profession of a writer.

The prohibition of intimate relationships with family members is due to the requirement of the search for alliances. The human being realized that he had to establish alliances with other groups for his own survival and that marrying within the same circle reduced the possibilities of subsisting. 

That is why relationships of affinity and reciprocity began to be established with other circles through the exchange of women. And in this way alliances were forged with a firm and lasting character.

The different civilizations have incorporated this prohibition into their daily lives, but always adapting it to their own needs. In Catholicism, for example, there is this restriction between brothers, fathers and mothers, but not between cousins. The explanation could be found in the need of European monarchs to maintain alliances between kingdoms (that is why family marriages were so common). 

On the other hand, the papal power was limited to the exercise of “notary” because it was a relationship of mutual benefit between both. However, the United States is a country where religion plays a fundamental role in dictating social behaviour: in those states with a greater presence of Protestant sects, laws have been enacted that penalize consanguinity and prevent the expansion of minorities immigrants.

This would explain that, as far as monarchical dynasties are concerned, consanguinity, far from being taboo, is something that is assumed to be normal. 

Geneticists Diane B. Paul and Hamish G. Spencer tell about it in an article that offers an analysis of this from a historical perspective. “The practice was not associated with the aristocracy and the upper-middle-class [Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were second cousins] but with much easier targets: immigrants and the rural poor.

Children with birth defects

Apart from practical reasons, weddings between cousins ​​have also been viewed with critical eyes on health issues: they are said to condemn their heirs to a series of horrible birth defects. 

In 2008, Labor politician Phil Woolas attributed the high percentage of babies born with genetic defects to cousin marriages in the British-Pakistani population. Beyond the racist bias in the commentary, unions of this type among members of this community represent a numerical reality. 

It is about creating links and, therefore, solidarity networks. Today, the family is the social security of many countries. Now, in extreme conditions, it can create blood-related problems.

What kind of problems, specifically? During the 1970s, Alan Bittles, a fellow at the Center for Comparative Genomics at Murdoch University (Australia), realized that the health problems that descendants of cousins ​​would have to face were not as severe as had been thought until then. 

In 2002, Bittles and a dozen other scientists reported in the Journal of Genetic Counseling that the chance of inheriting genetic disorders or diseases such as spina bifida or cystic fibrosis was only 1.7% higher than in the rest of the population (almost 4%), while the mortality rate stood at 4.4%. The same number faced by women who give birth over 40 years old. 

Those who oppose this practise claim that it is a way to multiply by two the chances of babies suffering from inherited disease. For Bittles, the difference is quite small. “Most will be as healthy as any other child in the community,” he said in an interview for The Guardian.

Years later, Bittles and a colleague by profession published a report in which they claimed that mortality had dropped almost a point (to 3.5%) among the children of consanguineous marriages, and they took care to highlight other factors to the time to influence results such as “demographic, social and economic”.

Geneticists Paul and Spencer endorsed Bittles’ assumptions and reinforced the theory that he sometimes errs by failing to separate a genetic problem from socioeconomic and environmental factors. “Inbred communities like the British-Pakistani often have little income. The mother may be malnourished, and families may not have access to good prenatal care, which, in turn, may not be available in their native language.”

However, a study published in The Lancet confirmed that British-Pakistanis are twice as 

likely to suffer sudden infant death syndrome compared to children of parents without a family relationship, and that “congenital abnormalities are the most common cause of death in children under the age of 12 in this ethnic group. ” 

According to data from The Independent newspaper, in the city of Bradford, 18% of marital unions are between cousins and 37% of them between the Pakistani community.

Despite the positions found, the genetic material is implacable and continues to have a weight that is difficult to ignore in the physical development of the human being.  


In this blog post, we presented to you 9+ cases of famous cousin marriages that shocked everyone, in some cases, even the partners themselves.

Although it is legal to marry your cousin, you should know about the social implications of this type of marriage, and the other potential consequences. 

Unions between family members carry a higher risk when developing hereditary diseases. The explanation is that these appear when the patient presents alterations in the two copies of the same gene. 

That is, if only one of the parents presents one of the two altered copies of the gene, their descendants will be carriers of a genetic alteration, but will not develop the disease. However, if a carrier has offspring with another person also carrier, it is possible that this disease occurs in their children.

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