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Inbreeding caused fall of dynasty, paper claims

RARE inherited genetic disorders worsened by repeated inbreeding may have brought down the powerful Spanish Habsburg dynasty, said Spanish researchers on Tuesday.

Checks of genealogical charts and analysis of King Charles II's reported health problems suggest he may have had two rare conditions called combined pituitary hormone deficiency and distal renal tubular acidosis, the researchers said in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS ONE.

While the occasional marriage of close relative such as first cousins is harmless, repeated intermarriages can make genetic flaws more common, Gonzalo Alvarez and colleagues at the University of Santiago de Compostela reported.

This appears to have happened frequently among the Habsburgs between 1516 and 1700 as they sought to keep power, Alvarez's team said.

"The last king of the Spanish Habsburg dynasty was Charles II. He was physically disabled, mentally retarded and disfigured," they wrote.

"He proved impotent since no children were born from his two marriages. When Charles II died in 1700 the line of the Spanish Habsburgs died with him and a new dynasty - the French Bourbons - was installed in Spain."

Their analysis showed nine out of 11 marriages over the 200 years were between first cousins or uncles and nieces.


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