INBREEDING between ‘uncle and niece’ caused the striking facial deformity of Spain’s 17th century King Carlos II, a new study has revealed.

The parents of Carlos II – Felipe IV and Mariana of Austria – ‘were uncle and niece, but with the blood accumulated over the generations it was as if they were brothers, like an incest’, wrote the team of 14 scientists in the report, published today in the journal Annals of Human Biology.

The crack team of investigators looked at 66 portraits from the Spanish House of Habsburg monarchs, who ruled from 1516 until 1700, finding ‘an association between facial deformity and inbreeding’.

The scientists noted a Habsburg strategy to ‘dominate most of Europe’ through marriages between related members of different ruling families, consecrating sex between cousins and even uncles and nieces.

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INBRED: Portrait of Carlos II painted around 1680 by Juan Carreño de Miranda

Carlos II was the last Habsburg ruler, and in whom genetic deformity was most pronounced in the pronounced extension of his lower jaw.

“But beyond his jaw prognathism, Carlos II also had a very droopy nose, very droopy eyes, and very droopy cheekbones. He had a maxillary deficiency and his entire face fell out,” said Francisco Ceballos, a geneticist and one of the study’s lead authors.

The report also highlighted King Carlos II’s ‘ugliness’, ‘speech impediments’ and inability to ‘chew’.

It also noted the king’s inability to stand up straight, as well as cognitive disabilities such as his inability to think clearly to the point of being ‘totally impressionable and lacking his own will’.

“The Habsburg kings are a laboratory to study the effects of inbreeding,” added Ceballos, noting the pronounced ‘Habsburg jaw’ of Carlos II was a recessive gene expressed through the closed royal gene pool.

Ceballos said he is now investigating the Bourbon line of kings to expand the investigation.

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