Scientists have confirmed that facial deformities among the House of Habsburg were caused by inbreeding, according to a newly-published study. The twist: they reached their findings by studying paintings. The influential Austrian royal line produced European rulers between the 14th and 20th centuries. They analyzed 66 royal portraits of 15 members of the House of Habsburg, all of which crucially, if not surprisingly showed the faces of their subjects.
Inbreeding Caused the Distinctive 'Habsburg Jaw' of 17th Century Royals That Ruled Europe
Hapsburg Jaw (Prognathism) ideas | portrait, holy roman empire, history
The condition, medically known as mandibular prognathism, causes the lower jaw to protrude significantly and affected the Habsburg dynasty of Spanish and Austrian kings and their wives, who secured their influence across a vast swathe of Europe for more than years through intermarriage. During the study, published in the Annals of Human Biology , researchers recruited 10 specialist facial surgeons, who used 66 portraits to diagnose the condition in 15 members of the Habsburg dynasty. Despite differences in artistic style, the portraits are characterised by a realistic approach to the human face. The surgeons were asked to diagnose 11 features of mandibular prognathism, as well as seven features of maxillary deficiency, the most recognisable of which are a prominent lower lip and an overhanging nasal tip. The surgeons gave scores for the degree of mandibular prognathism and maxillary deficiency in each member of the Habsburg family. Mary of Burgundy, who married into the family in , showed the least degree of both traits. Maxillary deficiency was diagnosed to the greatest degree in five members of the family, including Charles II.
Facial deformity in royal dynasty was linked to inbreeding, scientists confirm
The "Habsburg jaw", a facial condition of the Habsburg dynasty of Spanish and Austrian kings and their wives, can be attributed to inbreeding, according to new results published in the Annals of Human Biology. The new study combined diagnosis of facial deformities using historical portraits with genetic analysis of the degree of relatedness to determine whether there was a direct link. The researchers also investigated the genetic basis of the relationship. Generations of intermarriage secured the family's influence across a European empire including Spain and Austria for more than years but led to its demise when the final Habsburg monarch was unable to produce an heir. However, until now no studies have confirmed whether the distinct chin known as "Habsburg jaw" was a result of inbreeding.
King Charles II of Spain was the last in the Habsburg line and one of the most afflicted with the facial deformity. The new study combined diagnosis of facial deformities using historical portraits with genetic analysis of the degree of relatedness to determine whether there was a direct link. The researchers also investigated the genetic basis of the relationship. The researchers recruited 10 maxillofacial surgeons to diagnose facial deformity in 66 portraits of 15 members of the Habsburg dynasty. Despite differences in artistic style, the portraits are characterized by a realistic approach to the human face.