Seven Historical Figures Who Married Their Cousins

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I, like most of you, would never marry my cousin. I mean, nothing against the guy. He's pretty cool. I just"¦you know"¦find the whole concept to be pretty squicky in general. But wedding your cousin was rather common not too long ago. In fact, there are a whole slew of famous people "“ intellectuals, even "“ who married second, third and even first cousins, and lived happily ever after. Or didn't, in some cases.

1. Johann Sebastian Bach

Bach had 20 children, seven of them with his first wife and second cousin on his father's side, Maria Barbara Bach. They married in 1707; she died in 1720. Five of Bach's sons, including two with Maria Barbara, had thriving musical careers of their own. Not much is known about their marriage, but he remarried less than two years after her death.

2. Edgar Allan Poe

It's no wonder so much of Edgar Allan Poe's work is macabre: by the time he was two years old, his father had abandoned the family and his mother died of consumption. When he was 20, in 1829, he moved to Baltimore to live with his aunt, brother and cousin Virginia. Despite the fact that Virginia was only seven, he fell in love with her. They were married in 1835 when she had reached the ripe old age of 13 (although the marriage certificate lists her as 21). There were about seven years of relatively good times for their family "“ Edgar was gaining fame for his writing and wrote some of his best-known pieces during this time period. In 1842, the couple was at a dinner party when Virginia started coughing up blood "“ it was consumption, the same illness that killed Edgar's mother. She spent the next five years slowly dying, which contributed to Edgar's insanity and alcoholism. She succumbed to the disease in 1847 and he mysteriously followed in 1849. The cause of his death is still unknown and much debated.

3. Jerry Lee Lewis

lewis.jpgWhile marrying your 13-year-old cousin may have been somewhat standard in the 1800s, it was certainly not acceptable in 1957, when rock "˜n' roller Jerry Lee Lewis married his cousin Myra, 13. It understandably caused an uproar and radio stations refused to play his music. It almost ended his career, but he later found a niche in country music. Myra and Jerry Lee had two children, one of which (Steve Allen Lewis) died at the age of three. The other, Phoebe, helps manage Jerry Lee's career today. He and Myra were divorced in 1970.

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4. Rudy Giuliani

Rudy had just graduated law school in 1968 when he married his third cousin, Regina Peruggi. Or so he thought. Accounts differ, but it seems that they figured out in 1982 that they were actually second cousins, which was just a little too close to home. Coincidentally enough, this discovery was made about the same time he met second wife Donna Hanover. Regina and Rudy divorced in 1982, the marriage was officially annulled by the Catholic church in 1983 and Rudy married Donna in 1984. Obviously, he's now running for president. Regina is the president of Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn.

5. Charles Darwin

Yep, the Father of Evolution married his first cousin, Emma Wedgwood. They shared a grandfather, Josiah Wedgwood (who, incidentally, started the Wedgwood pottery empire). Darwin was decidedly unromantic "“ when torn over whether to propose or not, he made a list of pros and cons. The pros included the fact that marriage would provide companionship better than that of a dog. The cons revolved mostly around his career "“ marriage would provide less money for books and would take up a lot of his personal time. Ultimately, marriage won out. When he went to Emma to ask for her hand, though, he skipped the whole "endless love" mush and instead spent the evening discussing transmutation. The scientific talk must have really done it for Emma, though, because when they did eventually get married they had a prolific 10 children.

6. Franklin D. Roosevelt

One of America's most beloved President/First Lady pairs were cousins. Distant cousins, though. Although they had met as children, they became reacquainted after a dinner at the White House in 1902 held by Eleanor's uncle and Franklin's fifth cousin, President Teddy Roosevelt. FDR was 20 at the time and was attending Harvard. Eleanor was 17 and had just had her formal introduction into society with her debutante party. They were married on St. Patrick's Day, 1905, and had six children in a span of 10 years.

7. Albert Einstein

Yes, our very own beloved Einstein. He was actually somewhat of a philanderer "“ he moved in with his second cousin, Elsa, in 1917"¦two years before his divorce from his first wife, Mileva. They were separated, though. He married Elsa in 1919, not too long after his divorce from Mileva was finalized. Letters in his own hand showed that he cheated on Elsa, though, and had at least half a dozen girlfriends while he was married to her. Elsa died in 1936 after coming down with heart and kidney problems and it would appear that his newfound bachelorhood suited Einstein just fine: he never married again and had plenty of girlfriends until his death in 1955.

A few other notables who married their cousins, distant or otherwise:

Jesse James "“ first cousin Zerelda "Zee" Mimms
Thomas Jefferson "“ third cousin Martha Wayles
H.G. Wells "“ first cousin Isabel Mary Wells (he left her after just three years, though)
Igor Stravinsky - first cousin Katerina Nossenko
Carlo Gambino - first cousin Catherine Castellano
"¢ Lots of Royals, including Queen Elizabeth II (third cousin Prince Philip); Marie Antoinette (second cousin King Louis XVI) and Catherine the Great (second cousin Peter III of Russia).

December 10, 2007 - 5:48am
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