Cousins are an integral part of dynastology since succession is quite often through the lines of a collateral (cadet) branch of a family and that cadet branch is made up of cousins. Indeed, everyone in a family is a cousin to someone else except for parents and children. The whole concept of cousins that we know now basically developed from royalty and prescriptions by the Roman Catholic Church through the previous 1500 years. Prior to that time, it was not unusual for a man to marry his sister or niece or aunt. In fact, the only situation that seems to have been forbidden in ancient and classical times was the marriage of children to parents. The Torah does mention certain restrictions within Jewish marriages, and it is assumed that this is where Christian marriage practices derived. One by one, levels of marriage became forbidden outside of Papal Decrees. Parents-children, siblings, uncle/aunt-niece/nephew, first cousins. The relative standard is now generally in at least the second degree of kinship, although some states in the United States require no closer than three degrees of kinship. None of this is to say that marriages of closer relatives have not occurred throughout the past 1500 years, because they certainly have. It's just some governmental or religious authority had to permit them, or they were done secretly. Now some of that previous paragraphs probably went straight over your heads. So let me explain some concepts:
- Parents, Grandparents, etc. – The core component of a family and the only truly required element is that of ancestry. Every individual has parents, who had parents, who had parents, etc. Procreating with your parents pollutes the bloodline pretty badly because half your genes are the same as that parent's. It is the worst kind of incestuous procreation and this was realized to some degree from very early on in history. Parents are once removed from the source individual. Grandparents are twice removed.
- Children, Grandchildren – The next most common element of a family is the child. It is optional but generally standard throughout history. Procreating with a child is the same as procreating with a parent. Children are once removed from the source, while grandchildren are twice removed.
- Siblings – Siblings are brothers and sisters of the source person. They have a statistical probability of sharing between 0% and 100% of the source person's genes, although the odds are around 50%. Ancient and classical societies often allowed and even encouraged sibling marriage to centralize a family; however, the practice went out of style in Europe by the 300s when Christianity took over the Roman Empire and labeled such practice a sin. Sibling marriages only usually happen late in life when both siblings are no longer fertile. Siblings are the equivalent of a 0th cousin-zero times removed.
- Nephews/Nieces – Nephews and nieces are the children of a source person's sibling. Thus, they are 0th cousins-once removed. Procreation between aunts/uncles and their nephews/nieces is not entirely uncommon and was certainly more common in classical times; but in modern times, it is generally frowned upon and has required governmental or Papal authorization.
- Aunts/Uncles – Aunts and uncles, simply stated, are the siblings of a source person's parents. Therefore, they are 0th cousins-once removed (see nephews/nieces).
- 1st Cousins – The children of aunts/uncles are a source person's 1st cousins. This first degree of kinship remains the general starting point for royal and noble marriages. Traditionally, royalty and nobility would marry 1st cousins to solidify family power while not marrying too close. Of course, multiple generations of 1st cousins procreating could create situations where recessive genes overpower dominant ones, resulting in genetic mutations, deformities, or mental illness. The genealogy of Charles II of Spain clearly shows this problem.
|Charles II, king of Spain|
|Genealogy of Charles II of Spain|
- 2nd Cousins, etc. – Finally, we have all extra cousins, from 2nd cousin until 800th cousin. It really doesn't matter. A cousin is a descendant from a common ancestor. If a cousin does not have a "remove", then they are in your same generation genealogically. That means that it takes just as many generations to reach them as it does to reach you from your common ancestor. For example, your 2nd cousin's great-grandfather is the same as your great-grandfather. Cousins are often removed, which is described in more detail below.
1. Start with the Source Person. This is probably you.
2. Pick a random relative distantly related to you. Say, a deceased movie star from the 1950s.
3. Find the last common ancestor (the person you both had as an ancestor)
4. What is your relationship to that ancestor? Let's assume you are a great-great-grandson (or daughter).
5. What is their relationship to that ancestor? Let's asume they are a granddaughter.
6. Look back at your shared family tree to see who was the last unremoved cousin of the famous person. In this example, it would be your grandmother, who was the famous person's 1st cousin (they shared grandparents).
7. Now how many generations are you from the person you determined in Step 6? In this example, you are two generations away (your father, and then yourself), or in genealogical terms, you are twice removed.
Now removes are interesting things because they work both ways, ascending up a family tree and descending down one, which means things are always more complicated when looking up. In a large family tree, you will be on the same line with your unremoved cousins. It will be you, siblings (0th cousins), 1st cousins, 2nd cousins, etc. The horizontal can go for a relatively infinite distance but it will always be composed of unremoved cousins because you are all in the same generation (regardless of age). Below that line, the children of unremoved cousins are always once removed, while the parents of unremoved cousins are also once removed. It's logical, because they are above and below your generation by one. Descending downward, a 2nd cousin's child will be your 2nd cousin-once removed. Their child will be your 2nd cousin-twice removed. And so on.
This creates a problem, though, in the ascending portion of the tree. Your 2nd cousin's parent is your 1st cousin-once removed. Your 3rd cousin's parent is your 2nd cousin-once removed, and their parent is your 1st cousin-twice removed. Confused? I sure am! To remember it, it's actually fairly simple: when going up a family tree, always subtract one from the type of cousin and add one to the times removed. To understand it, you have to look at it from the perspective of the other person. Your 2nd cousin's parent is your 1st cousin-once removed because that 1st cousin-once removed is your parent's 1st cousin and you are your parent's child, hence once removed from them. I know, it's very complex. Here is a chart to make things a little more clear:
|Family Relational Chart|
I intended to discuss some more royal aspects of cousins and family but I have too many more terms to discuss. Next week I promised a Monarch Poll so the rest of this post will have to wait a fortnight. Just rest assured that cousin relationships are extremely important in the spectrum of European royal politics and some of those ramifications will be discussed at a later date. For now, adieu.