10 Famous Historical Figures Who Married Family Members


The term “kissing cousins” has been around for a long time, and while you might think it is rare, the truth is that more than ten percent of worldwide marriages are between first and second cousins. One of the main reasons for such a stat is the fact that while producing offspring with a cousin increases the risk of birth defects, the actual number is approximately a four percent risk. Compare that to a two percent risk in non-related couples. We’re not saying that we condone the activity, we simply wanted to put things in perspective for readers who may find the following list of famous historical figures who married a first cousin (or worse) quite shocking indeed.

Famous Historical Figures Who Married Family Members

Charles Darwin

Of all people, you would assume renowned scientist and natural selection advocate #1 Charles Darwin would know better than to dip his pen in the family ink, so to speak. We know that’s not actually the expression (thank god), but you get what we’re saying. That’s right, Darwin is first on our list for marrying first cousin Emma Wedgwood in 1839, whom he remained married to for more than 40 years. In that time, the couple had ten children together. We know that there were many more untreatable illnesses back then, but coupling that with what we know about inbreeding, it should come as no surprise that two of those children died in infancy, while another passed away at 10 years old.

Albert Einstein

The next time someone sarcastically calls you “Einstein” when you do something stupid, tell them you are offended by such a comment. When they ask why, you can drop a truth bomb on them concerning the scientist’s well-documented record of getting down with family members. Okay, just one family member, but he was married to her for 17 years. Albert Einstein married Elsa Lowenthal in 1919, who then changed her name back to Einstein. That’s right, we said BACK to Einstein (she had previously been married to Max Lowenthal). If that’s not awkward enough for you, consider the fact that Lowenthal was not only Einstein’s first cousin on his mother’s side, but also his second cousin on his father’s side. Fortunately, the two never produced any offspring together, but Lowenthal did have two daughters from her first marriage, which Einstein then raised as his own.

H.G. Wells

Let’s move away from scientists and onto science fiction writers. H.G Wells, famous for books such as “War of the Worlds,” briefly married first cousin Isabel Mary Wells in 1891, but dumped her three years later after falling for one of his students, Amy Catherine “Jane” Robbins. There’s an obvious joke here concerning gene splicing, “The Island of Doctor Moreau” and getting it on with your cousin, but we’ll take the high road and just say that for a guy obsessed with time machines, Wells should have taken the future into consideration before bumping uglies with family. That’s the high road, right?

Edgar Allan Poe

More like Edgar Allan “Oh hell no,” am I right Springer fans? Marriage laws were certainly a lot looser back in the 1800s than they are now. Otherwise, how could you explain author and poet Edgar Allan Poe’s marriage to his 13-year-old first cousin Virginia Clemm in 1835? Fortunately for weak stomachs everywhere, it is surmised by many historians that their relationship was more brother-sister than husband-wife, and that they may never have actually consummated the marriage. Still, what kind of sick weirdo weds someone so young, let alone in the same family tree. Oh, wait…

Jerry Lee Lewis

We can’t think of a more twisted transition than this one, but speaking of dudes who like to marry 13-year-old family members, we have the perfect solution for getting yourself blacklisted from the radio and shunned by your fan base. Just do what legendary rock ‘n’ roll musician Jerry Lee Lewis did and shack up with your first cousin, once removed (translated to daughter of a first cousin). Myra Gale Brown was Lewis’ third wife at the time, which is pretty outstanding considering he was only 22 himself. That should put this lunatic’s odd choices in perspective, especially since this was marriage three of seven and potentially counting. However, it still doesn’t excuse having a wife who still believes in Santa Claus.

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Saddam Hussein

As long as we’re on the subject of sick weirdos of the highest caliber, did you know that former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was still married to a first cousin at the time of his death by hanging in 2006? Well, you do now. Strangely enough, his marriage to Sajida Talfah isn’t nearly as disturbing as Jerry Lee Lewis’, as it was an arranged marriage set in motion when he was only 5 and she was 7. They wed in 1963 and lived happily ever after…along with Saddam’s two other wives, as polygamy is legal as hell in Iraq.

Christopher Robin Milne

To put the shoe on the other foot for a second, innocent children don’t stay innocent forever. Take the inspiration behind the now beloved Disney character Christopher Robin from the original Winnie the Pooh books for example, who would grow up to become a massive disappointment to his family. Now before anyone in a relationship with their cousin gets angry at that comment, we aren’t actually ripping on him; we’re simply stating the facts. After marrying his maternal uncle’s daughter and first cousin Lesley de Selincourt, Milne was shunned by his parents. His mother in particular, who didn’t get along with her brother Aubrey (Milne’s now father-in-law), didn’t speak to him for nearly 15 years before her death. A small price to pay for a little cousin-on-cousin lovin’…apparently.

Martin Van Buren

Say what you will about any of the U.S. presidents in your lifetime; they never married a cousin. That’s more than we can say for ex-Prez Martin Van Buren, who married first cousin (once removed, but we already told you what that means) Hannah Hoes in 1807. Is it just us, or was the 19th century a magical time for cousin lovers everywhere? Anyways, the *shudder* couple went on to produce six children together during their 12-year marriage before Hoes died of tuberculosis at age 35. However, this was 18 years before Van Buren became president. Therefore, there has never been an incestuous couple residing in the White House as far as we know (unless you count fifth cousins, once removed Franklin D. and Eleanor Roosevelt). The Van B Boys would be proud.

Cleopatra VII Thea Philopator

Finally, we’ve come to the truly hard-hitting stuff. The down and dirty, B.C. days stuff. We didn’t want this list to consist of nothing but kissing cousins, so we decided to venture all the way back to the days of Ancient Egypt to dig up some real dirt. Known as the last Ancient Egyptian pharaoh, Cleopatra VII Thea Philopator’s exotic conquests consisted of more than just hooking up with the likes of Julius Caesar and Mark Antony. Prior to this, she was wed to her brother Ptolemy XIII after the death of her father, which was customary at the time. Considering she’d eventually go to war with Ptolemy for the throne, who knows if this marriage was actually consummated. However, even if it wasn’t, it has also been speculated that Cleopatra herself was the product of incest, with historians believing her mother may have been her father’s sister.


Staying with the Ancient Egyptian swing of things, our final entry on this list is none other than Tutankhamun, aka King Tut. It’s well documented that marriage during these days was kept in the family among royalty in order to preserve the bloodline. In fact, many believe it was common practice in all classes at the time. Hence, along with King Tut being the son of Akhenaten and his unidentified sister-wife (was hoping to never have to write those words in my lifetime), he was said to have married his his own half-sister Ankhesenamun. And we thought Martin Van Buren’s taste in women was hard to swallow.

More to gently make fun of: 10 Historical Facts That Will Make You Think Twice About Romanticizing The Past