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May 21, 2017

They Did What? 15 Famous People Who Actually Married Their Cousins

In many cultures around the world, it is frowned upon to marry your cousin (and in some countries even illegal), but that hasn’t stopped people throughout history from doing it. Through history there have been many famous people who, for reasons known only to them, have married within the family. This is a list of 15 of the most famous people who have done this.

1. Jesse James


Outlaw, gangster, robber and even murderer, Jesse James just might be the most famous outlaw in American history. A Missouri native, James was a legendary figure whose actions caused him to become an incredibly polarizing icon. While some appreciate James as a hero and southern loyalist, others saw his killing sprees and robberies as acts of disorder that required the highest of justice.

Often caught in the line of fire thanks to the nature of his “work”, James was staying with his uncle while recovering from a chest wound when he fell in love with his first cousin, Zerelda Mimms, who was taking care of him. After courting for nine years, Mimms and James finally married on April 24, 1874. Together, the couple had four children including a son, Jesse Edward, a daughter, Mary Susan, and a set of twins that passed away in infancy.


2. Franklin D. Roosevelt


Often considered one of the top three greatest Presidents of all time alongside George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Delano Roosevelt served as the 32nd President of the United States from 1933 until his death in 1945. Helping to lead the United States through World War II, FDR penned the New Deal, which proved to be instrumental in revitalizing the nation after a tragic economic depression.

FDR and Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt were fifth cousins who both spent time in the Oval Office but, it was another fifth cousin, once removed, who FDR married. On March 17, 1904 and much to the disapproval of his mother, FDR married Eleanor Roosevelt in New York City as her uncle, President Teddy Roosevelt, stood in for his favorite niece. Married for 40 years and with six children, their relationship became more of a political partnership after his numerous affairs while in office led Eleanor to pursue her own ambitions.


3. Johann Sebastian Bach


Known as one of the greatest composers of all time, Johann Sebastian Bach was a German composer and organist whose exceptional talent and ability are still appreciated today. Among over three hundred cantatas and numerous other compositions, some of Bach’s classics include the Brandenburg Concertos, Overture No. 2 in B Minor, and Concerto in A Minor for 4 Harpsichords.

Shortly after taking a position as an organist at the St. Blasius’s Church in Muhlhausen, Bach married his second cousin, Maria Barbara Bach, on October 17, 1707. Though little is known about the couple’s life together, they welcomed seven children into the world, four of whom survived to adulthood and two of whom became composers like their father. Maria passed away of unexpected causes 13 years into the marriage and, just 17 months after, Bach remarried with Anna Magdalena Wilcke.


4. H.G. Wells


One of the most prolific writers in literary history, Herbert George “H.G.” Wells is considered as one of the founding fathers of science fiction. Born in England in 1866, Wells was trained as a biologist and openly supported the work of Charles Darwin whose theories inspired many of his literary works. Widely enjoyed and taught today, some of his most notable classics include The Island of Doctor Moreau, The Invisible Man, The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds.

Wells took another page out of Darwin’s scientific theory when he married his first cousin, Isabel Mary Wells, in 1891. However, as rumors spread that Wells was cheating on Mary with a student, the two called it quits and separated in 1894. Just a year later, Wells proved that the rumors were true as he and his student, Amy Catherine Robbins, married and started a family. Old habits, however, proved to die hard for Wells as he continued to have extramarital affairs though, this time, with his wife’s full consent.


5. Thomas Jefferson


Returning once again to the Presidents on our list, we focus on another founding father, Thomas Jefferson, who served as the third President of the United States from 1801 to 1809. A graduate from the College of William and Mary as well as a practicing lawyer, Jefferson was instrumental in writing the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and was elected as the second Vice President of the United States under John Adams before winning the presidency.

Jefferson married his third cousin, the newly widowed Martha Wayles Skelton, on January 1, 1772. At just 23 years old, Martha caught Jefferson’s eye as she was a frequent hostess and had previously managed his household. In what many consider as one of the happiest periods of Jefferson’s life, the couple had six children together until Martha passed away at just 33 years old in 1782.


6. Albert Einstein


One of the greatest minds to ever walk this earth, Albert Einstein was born in Germany in 1879 and is responsible for discovering the world’s most famous equation, E=mc2, the mass-energy equivalence. With over 300 scientific articles published, Einstein received a Nobel Prize for Physics in 1921 and, in the United States, is known for his work in the Manhattan Project, which led to the world’s first atomic bomb.

After his first marriage to Mileva Maric ended in 1919, Einstein openly pursued a relationship with his former mistress since 1912, Elsa Lowenthal. Lowenthal and Einstein were first cousins maternally and second cousins paternally but that didn’t stop their love as they married in 1919 after a seven-year relationship. Emigrating to the United States in 1933, the couple had just settled in when Lowenthal passed away only three years later after suffering from heart problems. The couple never had any children together but each had children from their previous marriages.


7. Charles Darwin


Charles Darwin was one of the most influential icons in human history because of his theory of evolution. Fascinated by the world, the English geologist detailed his theory in his 1859 publication, On the Origin of Species, which laid the foundation for science that is taught in classrooms around the world today.

Darwin’s main principle was “survival of the fittest”, which might be the reason why he married his first cousin, Emma Wedgwood, who was only a few months younger. Darwin was keenly aware of the irony in the fact that he was inbreeding and believed it was the main reason why many of his 10 children died at a very young age. Oddly enough, survival of the fittest obviously applied to previous generations as Darwin’s and Wedgewood’s grandparents were also related as third cousins.


8. Edgar Allan Poe


“Nevermore!” Heralded as the inventor of detective fiction, Edgar Allan Poe is perhaps best known for his poetry and short stories that are characterized by their grim mystery. Born in Boston in 1809, Poe was one of the first American writers to earn a living as a writer and, despite financial struggles up until his death at the age of 40, he achieved success with works such as “The Raven”, “Annabel Lee” and “Lenore”.

Edgar Allan Poe fell in love with a younger woman when, at 27 years old, he married his 13-year-old cousin, Virginia Clemm. After their secret ceremony on September 22, 1835, the couple shared a quiet life until 1842 when Clemm showed signs of tuberculosis. Over the next five years, Poe drank more and more as Clemm grew sicker, ultimately losing her battle at just 24 years old on January 30, 1847. Completely lost and overwhelmed with grief, Poe’s erratic behavior and drinking led to his death two years later.


9. Jerry Lee Lewis


Named as “rock and roll’s first great wild man,” Jerry Lee Lewis is still alive and well today at 80 years old. A pioneer of rock and roll during the 1950s, Lewis started his career with hit songs such as “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On”, “Great Balls of Fire” and “Breathless”, skyrocketing the 22-year-old star straight to the top. Yet, what actually landed him on this list is exactly what hurt his career.

At the height of his career and in the midst of a British tour in 1958, news broke that Lewis had married his 13-year-old first cousin once removed, Myra Gale Brown, in 1957 when he was 22 years old. Despite claims that Myra was actually 15 at the time, the damage was already done to his career as people were so disturbed by Lewis’ third marriage that they lost interest in the former rocker. With his nightly fees plummeting from $10,000 per show to $250, Lewis managed to enjoy a brief comeback in the 1960s but never achieved the fame he once had.


10. Igor Stravinsky


From former Presidents of the United States to Queens of England, we now visit another composer on our list, Igor Stravinsky. Born in Russia in 1882, Stravinsky spent a good portion of his life traveling in France and the United States until his death in 1971. With some of his most famous compositions including The Rite of Spring, The Firebird and Petrushka, Stravinsky is considered one of the most influential composers of the 20th century.

Stravinsky fell in love with his first cousin, Yekaterina Gavrilovna Nosenko (also known as “Katya”), at a very early age. In 1905, the childhood sweethearts were planning to marry but faced ongoing opposition from the Orthodox Church who prohibited first cousins from marrying. Despite this, however, the couple finally tied the knot on January 23, 1906 and welcomed their son, Fyodore (Theodore) and daughter, Ludmilla, in the following two years.


11. Queen Elizabeth II


All Hail the Queen! As the longest reigning monarch in the history of the United Kingdom, Queen Elizabeth II is already a legend. Ruling several countries including Canada, Australia and New Zealand, Queen Elizabeth first took the throne in 1952 and has since seen 12 of her countries become independent. Now at 89 years old, the illustrious monarch has no plans on leaving the crown to George VI anytime soon.

Long before she took the throne, Queen Elizabeth met Philip who was, at the time of their introduction in 1934, the Prince of Greece and Denmark. Now, at 94 years old, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, is the longest serving consort of a monarch in British history after his marriage to Elizabeth in 1947. The couple are actually related twice as they are second cousins once removed from King Christian IX of Denmark and third cousins through Queen Victoria.


12. Queen Victoria


Speaking of Queen Victoria, Elizabeth II isn’t the only the queen in British history who married her cousin. Victoria served as the Queen of Great Britain and Ireland as well as the Empress of India from June 1847 until her death on May 1, 1876. The daughter of Prince Edward, Victoria became queen when she was just 18 years old after her three older brothers and father passed away, making her one of the youngest heirs in British history.

While Elizabeth II married her second cousin, Victoria didn’t stray as far from the family tree when she married her first cousin, Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, in 1840. Victoria and Albert had nine children together and were married for more than 20 years before Albert’s death. Madly in love with Albert long after his passing, Victoria once wrote in her journal about how her husband was “extremely handsome” and that her “heart is quite going” with love.


13. John Adams


As one of our Founding Fathers, John Adams was an extremely versatile professional who worked as a lawyer, author, diplomat and statesman before becoming the first Vice President of the United States under George Washington. At the end of Washington’s eight-year term, Adams easily stepped in as the second President of the United States, leading the young nation from 1797 until 1801.

Though known to collaborate with Samuel Adams, one of his many famous cousins, on innovative and revolutionary ideas, his relationship with his third cousin, Abigail, is a much juicier topic for our list. Knowing one another practically their entire lives, John fell in love with the shy Abigail who preferred to read rather than socialize and go out like the other girls. As their love blossomed, the future President proposed, making Abigail the future First Lady of the United States and the mother to their six children.


14. Christopher Robin Milne


Best known as the boy who loved Winnie-the-Pooh, Christopher Robin Milne was the inspiration behind the Winnie-the-Pooh stories and poetry written by his father, A. A. Milne. Ridiculed throughout his childhood for being the subject of the stories, Christopher actually spent much of his life resenting his father for exploiting him to sell books. Refusing to accept any of the royalties from book sales, Christopher made his own mark in the literary world by opening one of the most successful bookstores in Dartmouth, Harbour Bookshop.

Perhaps some of the anger toward his father and even his mother was due, in part, because they opposed his marriage to his first cousin, Lesley de Selincourt, in 1948. Outraged by the marriage, Christopher’s mother spent the next 15 years of her life without seeing or speaking to her son. By 1956, the happy couple welcomed their first and only child, Clare, who was later diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy and went on to establish a charity to spread awareness about the disease.


15. John F. Fitzgerald


American history, especially that of Boston, would be far different today without the Fitzgerald and Kennedy families. The father of Rose Kennedy and grandfather of future President John F. Kennedy, John F. Fitzgerald was a career politician and congressman who served two terms as the Mayor of Boston. Politics weren’t all that “Honey Fitz” was interested in, however, as he also became part owner of the legendary Boston Red Sox.

Fitzgerald was the second cousin of Mary Josephine Hannon, who was the daughter of Mary Ann Fitzgerald and Michael Hannon. Fitzgerald and “Josie” married on September 18, 1889 and spent the next 61 years raising their six children and dozens of grandchildren together. Fitzgerald died in Boston on October 2, 1950 at the age of 87 leaving his wife and an incredible legacy behind.

(via OldCatLady.Com)

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