Created By: zarpaulus on January 1, 2014 Last Edited By: zarpaulus on January 9, 2014
Troped

Royal Inbreeding

Royalty and aristocrats tend to marry their relatives

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Often, those of noble or royal birth are supposed to marry other nobles, typically in Arranged Marriages intended to secure alliances, but since there are so few of these people this frequently leads to marriages between cousins or similar relatives. Some even marry their siblings.

Oftentimes this is used to explain The Caligula, Royally Screwed Up, and It Runs in the Family.

This is Truth in Television, even with siblings (Ancient Egypt for one).


Examples:

Literature
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire the Targaryan dynasty wed brother to sister for centuries, often blamed in universe for their tendency to produce mad kings. Later Cersei and Jaime Lannister are twins who secretly have an affair and three kids, which ends up starting a five-way civil war, though their parents were first cousins and no one thought that unusual.
  • A few examples in the Dune universe. Though mostly intended as eugenics.
    • The Bene Gesserit intended for Jessica to bear a daughter that would be mated to her cousin Feyd-Rautha as part of their Super Breeding Program, but she bore a son instead.
    • Leto II symbolically married his sister Ghanima, though at that point he was physically unable to have sex so he had Prince Farad'n Corrino (who would be a very distant cousin) sire her children.
    • Over the 3,500 years Leto II controlled the Bene Gesserit breeding program he mated several of Duncan Idaho's clones with his sister's descendants.
  • In the second trilogy of Kushiel's Legacy Imriel de la Courcel falls in love with and eventually marries Princess Sidonie de la Courcel. Imriel is the son of Sidonie's uncle, making them first cousins once removed.
  • Chronicles of the Kencyrath: The Knorth, the royal house of the Kencyr, has a long tradition of twin marriages.
  • Babar, King of the Elephants in Jean de Bruhhoff's children's books is Happily Married to his cousin Celeste.
  • Harry Potter: The wizarding world doesn't have royalty, but it does have pureblood lines. As such, many of them use intermarrying to keep the bloodline pure, and disowning anyone who marries "mudbloods". Dumbledore mentions this was the case with the Gaunt family, the last descendants of Salazar Slytherin, who had inherited their family's violent temper due to interbreeding.
  • Discworld
    • In Pyramids, the High Priest Dios suggests that newly-crowned pharaoh Teppic marry any available female relative. Of course, Teppic's kingdom is the Discworld's version of Ancient Egypt.
    • Parodied in Feet of Clay, where it's mentioned that in the city of Genua, the royal lines died out "through interbreeding so intensively that the last king kept trying to breed with himself"
  • In The Painter Knight, several pages are devoted to explaining how an exiled member of the royal family, over the course of about 75 years, managed to tie his bloodline back into the ruling line — by marrying his cousin, having their children marry second cousins, and having their grandchildren marry third cousins — one of whom is the current monarch. His child inherits the powers of four different septs of the dynasty in one go.

Live-Action TV
  • In just the third episode of The Tudors Henry VII arranged a marriage between his daughter Mary and her mother's nephew the Holy Roman Emperor Charles II, though the engagement was called off later. Note that Charles and his aunt were Hapsburgs (see Real Life).

Tabletop Games
  • In Warhammer it's said that during the most decadent days of the Empire the nobles were so inbred that mutations became commonplace. The Witch Hunters seem to have solved that problem though.
  • The Navigator Houses in Warhammer Forty Thousand, aka the Navis Nobilite, tend to act like aristocrats and have become so inbred over the millennia that most if not all of them have mutations other than their genetically engineered third eye (which is recessive, hence the inbreeding).
  • In Ironclaw grey foxes, the ruling house of Calebria, often exhibit signs of inbreeding like hemophilia or color blindness, with rumors of more extreme traits like polydactyly.
  • The Silver Fangs of Werewolf: The Apocalypse suffered from inbreeding despite their biological requirement to outbreed. Because they refused to mate with humans who weren't royalty, many were Hapsburgs.

Theatre
  • In A Man for All Seasons, the king tells Thomas More that he considers having married his dead brother's wife to be incest, despite them not being relatives by blood.
  • This trope drives the main plot and two subplots in Gilbert and Sullivan's H.M.S. Pinafore. Sir Joseph Porter, the First Lord of the Admiralty, boards the Pinafore to court Josephine, daughter of the ship's captain. However, seaport floozy Buttercup declares that, in her youth, she breastfed both Captain Corcoran and seaman Rackstraw, and inadvertently mixed up the two infants. Sir Joseph then declares that he cannot marry Josephine, as she is the daughter of a mere seaman, her charm and grace notwithstanding. This allows now-Captain Rackstraw to propose to Josephine, and demoted-to-seaman Corcoran to pursue Buttercup. Sir Joseph resigns himself to courting his cousin Hebe.

Video Games

Real Life
  • The Ancient Egyptian Pharaohs often married their cousins or in some cases sisters. Some suspect that King Tut died so young because of several generations of inbreeding, and his only children were stillborn because of it.
  • The House of Habsburg, which ruled most of Europe for several hundred years (with branches in Spain, France, England, the entire Holy Roman Empire...), was notorious for this.
  • Turn of the Century British royalty:
    • Queen Victoria's children were married into so many other European royal houses that by 1914, George V of England and Tsar Nicholas of Russia looked so physically alike they might have been twin brothers. Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany might have made a triplet.
    • When the post-Communist Russian government wanted to verify that the human remains found in Siberia were those of the late Tsar Nicholas, they needed a close relative to match the DNA. Members of the British Royal Family were tactfully approached to give DNA samples. Which proved the Romanoff DNA beyond all possible doubt.
    • Nicholas II's son Alexei inherited the gene for hemophilia that Victoria carried because his mother was one of her grandchildren.
  • In ancient and feudal Japan, it was common for noble and imperial families to arrange marriages between cousins because The Patriarch of these families tended to have boatloads of children from many different women, and this was a convenient way of tidying up familial loose ends and folding branches of the family back into the main House.
Community Feedback Replies: 43
  • January 1, 2014
    MorganWick
    Also leads to Royally Screwed Up.

    One justification of this, before the advent of modern genetics, was that only "royal blood" was good enough for other royals to marry. If all your "royal blood" by definition comes from a single progenitor, as was the case in some old cultures, Kissing Cousins is practically an Enforced Trope.
  • January 1, 2014
    Lakija
    Edit: NVM... are you sure this isn't redundant though?
  • January 1, 2014
    StarSword
    Literature:
    • In the second trilogy of Kushiels Legacy Imriel de la Courcel falls in love with and eventually marries Princess Sidonie de la Courcel. Imriel is the son of Sidonie's uncle, making them first cousins once removed.
  • January 1, 2014
    MrInitialMan
    Real Life:

    • The Habsburg family, which led to its downfall—they were just too inbread.
  • January 1, 2014
    MiinU
    How is this different from Incest Subtext (which includes instances of actual incest)?

  • January 1, 2014
    Synchronicity
    Necro'ing through YKTTW reveals this identical YKTTW. Although I'm still not convinced we need it.
  • January 1, 2014
    zarpaulus
    ^^ I don't see any similarity to that trope. In these cases the incest is usually outright stated.
  • January 1, 2014
    Larkmarn
    Agreed this is genuinely a trope. The idea that royals should date only their own is definitely a genuine trope and not covered by Incest Subtext.

  • January 1, 2014
    MiinU
    ^@Larkman - In that case, I suggest transferring examples from that page to this one, since it has examples of actual incest (so far as dating and canon sexual relationships) among noble families, including the Revolutionary Girl Utena and the Queen's Blade examples.
  • January 2, 2014
    Chabal2
    • In A Man For All Seasons, the king tells Thomas More that he considers having married his dead brother's wife to be incest, despite them not being relatives by blood.
    • Sigvald the Magnificent, Champion of Slaanesh in Warhammer, was the result of a nobleman sleeping with his own sister (Slaanesh being the god of general depravity, it pretty much marked him from the beginning).
  • January 2, 2014
    kjnoren
    I think this should be renamed Royally Inbred or Royal Inbreeding. That way we get a clearer line between the other incest tropes and this one, in that the focus is not only on a specific type of incest, but on the use of relatives marrying each other over time.

    Remember also that what is considered incest has varied a lot between different cultures.

    The description should drop its potholes, use Kissing Cousins and Brother Sister Incest instead, and probably refer to Twincest as well.

    @Chabal2: The Sigvald example should probably go under Brother Sister Incest

    Literature:

  • January 2, 2014
    DAN004
    Royal Inbreeding gets my vote.
  • January 2, 2014
    Snicka
    This shows up even in children's media.

    • Babar, King of the Elephants in Jean de Bruhhoff's children's books is Happily Married to his cousin Celeste.
  • January 2, 2014
    zarpaulus
    @ Miin U: Why do you keep referring to the trope for implied incest when there's an entire index of Incest tropes?
  • January 2, 2014
    StarSword
    The example for The Witcher actually belongs in Literature. It first came up in The Last Wish, the first book of the original book series.

    And I'm not entirely certain it actually counts, given this seems to be more about "normal" royalty practices of marrying their relatives for political reasons.
  • January 2, 2014
    Tuckerscreator
    • Harry Potter: The wizarding world doesn't have royalty, but it does have pureblood lines. As such, many of them use intermarrying to keep the bloodline pure, and disowning anyone who marries "mudbloods". Dumbledore mentions this was the case with the Gaunt family, the last descendants of Salazar Slytherin, who had inherited their family's violent temper due to interbreeding.
  • January 2, 2014
    kjnoren
    ^^ I think the political marriages is one reason why inbreeding was so much more common in royalty, but it's not the only reason for inbreeding or incest. So I think the trope maybe should be made clearer that this is inbreeding among royals for any reason.

    Possible page quote:

    Welcome to our small but interestingly inbred family.
    Torisen to his cousin—fraternal and maternal—Kindrie in Honor's Paradox

    Mythology:

    • In several versions of the King Arthur stories, Arthur was the father of Mordred with his half-sister Morgan Le Fay.
  • January 2, 2014
    Larkmarn
    ^ I don't think that's a good idea. "Inbreeding between royals for any reason" isn't really distinct from just plain incest. It's The Same But More Specific.

    However, royals inbreeding to keep their bloodlines pure or secure alliances (basically institutionalized inbreeding) is definitely a trope.
  • January 2, 2014
    StarSword
    ^That's what I meant by "political reasons". My point is, King Foltest schtupping Princess Adda I from The Witcher doesn't count, because it is most definitely not treated as a culturally normal occurrence.
  • January 2, 2014
    Larkmarn
    Yeah, we're on the same page.
  • January 2, 2014
    KomodoClassic
    Also see It Runs In The Family. I think this is probably already covered though, on pages like Royally Screwed Up.
  • January 2, 2014
    AgProv
    Truth In Television: Queen Victoria's children were married into so many other European royal houses that by 1914, George V of England and Tsar Nicholas of Russia looked so physically alike they might have been twin brothers. Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany might have made a triplet.

    And when the post-Communist Russian government wanted to verify that the human remains found in Siberia were those of the late Tsar Nicholas, they needed a close relative to match the DNA. Members of the British Royal Family were tactfully approached to give DNA samples. Which proved the Romanoff DNA beyond all possible doubt.
  • January 2, 2014
    arbiter099

    King's name was spelled wrong in the Witcher example
  • January 2, 2014
    zarpaulus
    ^ The Borgias were a noble family, though since the Pope isn't even supposed to have children that example as written doesn't quite make it clear why they would be this trope.
  • January 2, 2014
    KingZeal
    In ancient and feudal Japan, it was common for noble and imperial families to arrange marriages between cousins because The Patriarch of these families tended to have boatloads of children from many different women, and this was a convenient way of tidying up familial loose ends and folding branches of the family back into the main House.
  • January 2, 2014
    arbiter099
    ^^Rodrigo's specific character aside, as head of the church during the Papal States period, it was more fitting to think of the Pope as "King of Rome" than Holy Father. The game certainly runs with this interpretation.
  • January 2, 2014
    DAN004
    Similar to Harry Potter example
    • The Nanayas in Tsukihime often encourage this to preserve their innate "anything-killer" ability.
  • January 4, 2014
    Larkmarn
    This is common with Juraians in Tenchi Muyo, but I can't remember if they ever show if cousins marrying is only common for royalty or if commoners do it as well.

    Actually, either way it's still an example since pretty much all Juraians shown are royalty (which means even if it's common for non royals to do it, the author knows that we're just seeing royals do it).

    But I'd need to find out if it's common in general to write the example.
  • January 4, 2014
    Surenity
    • Egyptian Mythology is ripe with royal incest (between Osiris and Isis, and Set and Nephthys), which is one reason the pharaohs practiced it in Real Life.
  • January 5, 2014
    zarpaulus
    ^^ Try to format that as an example.
  • January 6, 2014
    capsaicinfinity
    • In Pyramids, the High Priest Dios suggests that newly-crowned pharaoh Teppic marry any available female relative. Of course, Teppic's kingdom is the Discworld's version of Ancient Egypt.
  • January 6, 2014
    JenBurdoo
    Literature:

    • In The Painter Knight, several pages are devoted to explaining how an exiled member of the royal family, over the course of about 75 years, managed to tie his bloodline back into the ruling line — by marrying his cousin, having their children marry second cousins, and having their grandchildren marry third cousins — one of whom is the current monarch. His child inherits the powers of four different septs of the dynasty in one go.
  • January 7, 2014
    oneuglybunny
    This trope drives the main plot and two subplots in Gilbert and Sullivan's HMS Pinafore. Sir Joseph Porter, the First Lord of the Admiralty, boards the Pinafore to court Josephine, daughter of the ship's captain. However, seaport floozy Buttercup declares that, in her youth, she breastfed both Captain Corcoran and seaman Rackstraw, and inadvertently mixed up the two infants. Sir Joseph then declares that he cannot marry Josephine, as she is the daughter of a mere seaman, her charm and grace notwithstanding. This allows now-Captain Rackstraw to propose to Josephine, and demoted-to-seaman Corcoran to pursue Buttercup. Sir Joseph resigns himself to courting his cousin Hebe.
  • January 7, 2014
    StarSword
    Fixed Example Indentation and removed three non-examples for being the same type of thing as Foltest/Adda from The Witcher, which I thought we'd agreed wasn't an example.
  • January 7, 2014
    StarSword
    Oh, also, possible page quote:
    Captain Kevin Darling: I'm as British as Queen Victoria!
    Captain Edmund Blackadder: So your father's German, you're half German and you married a German?
    — "General Hospital", Blackadder Goes Forth

    TV:
    • Referenced briefly in the Blackadder Goes Forth'' episode "General Hospital", which humorously alludes to the complexity of the House of Windsor's family ties in early 20th Century Europe.
  • January 7, 2014
    zarpaulus
    ^ That doesn't really mention inbreeding.
  • January 8, 2014
    StarSword
    ^Yeah, I guess not. NVM.
  • January 8, 2014
    Aquila89
    Parodied in the Discworld book Feet Of Clay, where it's mentioned that in the city of Genua, the royal lines died out "through interbreeding so intensively that the last king kept trying to breed with himself"
  • January 9, 2014
    zarpaulus
    Hats?
  • January 9, 2014
    Paradisesnake
    Hatted. Also namespaced a couple examples.
  • January 9, 2014
    KingZeal
    I changed Medieval Japan back to Jidai Geki. "Medieval Japan" means something completely different.
  • January 9, 2014
    zarpaulus
    Any other examples? Otherwise will launch in an hour.
  • January 9, 2014
    DAN004
    Llaauunncchh.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=smvm9m1bfz7irci59bxlpzye&trope=RoyalInbreeding