The European royal dynasties of the Early Modern Age provide a useful framework for human inbreeding research. In this article, consanguineous marriage, inbreeding depression and the purging of deleterious alleles within a consanguineous population are investigated in the Habsburgs, a royal dynasty with a long history of consanguinity over generations. Genealogical information from a number of historical sources was used to compute kinship and inbreeding coefficients for the Habsburgs. The marriages contracted by the Habsburgs from 1450 to 1750 presented an extremely high mean kinship (0.0628±0.009), which was the result of the matrimonial policy conducted by the dynasty to establish political alliances through marriage. A strong inbreeding depression for both infant and child survival was detected in the progeny of 71 Habsburg marriages in the period 1450–1800. The inbreeding load for child survival experienced a pronounced decrease from 3.98±0.87 in the period 1450–1600 to 0.93±0.62 in the period 1600–1800, but temporal changes in the inbreeding depression for infant survival were not detected. Such a reduction of inbreeding depression for child survival in a relatively small number of generations could be caused by elimination of deleterious alleles of a large effect according with predictions from purging models. The differential purging of the infant and child inbreeding loads suggest that the genetic basis of inbreeding depression was probably very different for infant and child survival in the Habsburg lineage. Our findings provide empirical support that human inbreeding depression for some fitness components might be purged by selection within consanguineous populations.
very interesting. Quite a lot of cultures around the world marry into the family, this consanguineous business is quite interesting. Witnessed this in Saudi Arabia, India and in many places in the UK as well.