Kissin’ cousins: 6 couples in history who were related

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By Jennifer Abella

Centuries ago, cousins marrying one another — like Edmund Bertram and Fanny Price — wasn’t a big deal. Sometimes it was even encouraged. Here’s a look at a few couples in history who were related:

Franklin D. Roosevelt & Eleanor Roosevelt

Eleanor and FDR in 1906. Credit: Franklin D. Roosevelt Library archives

Yes, President Franklin Roosevelt and first lady Eleanor  — who helped guide the nation through the Depression and World War II — were in fact fifth cousins, once removed. Former President Theodore Roosevelt, Eleanor’s uncle, gave the bride away at the wedding in 1905.

Charles Darwin & Emma Wedgwood


Scientist Charles Darwin married his first cousin Emma Wedgwood in 1839. The couple had 10 children; seven survived to adulthood. 

Edgar Allen Poe & Virginia Clemm


The famed author married his first cousin Virginia Clemm in 1836, when she was not yet 14 years old (he was 27). She died in 1847 at age 24.

Jerry Lee Lewis & Myra Williams

Seen at a London press conference on May 24, 1958 are American Rock 'n' Roll singer Jerry Lee Lewis, 22, and his cousin, Myra Brown, 13, whom he took as his third wife before divorcing his second. (AP Photo) ORG XMIT: APHS131 (Via MerlinFTP Drop)
Jerry Lee Lewis, 22, and his cousin, Myra Brown, 13, in 1958. (Credit: AP)

The 1950s rock-and-roll star Jerry Lee Lewis married third cousin Myra Williams in 1958 — when she was 13. The relationship prompted his popularity to decline. “It was something that marked Jerry for life,” Myra told journalist Alan Light. She and Lewis divorced in 1970.

Queen Elizabeth II & Prince Philip


The longest-reigning monarch of Britain married her third cousin Prince Philip in 1947. When he proposed in 1946, she said yes immediately — not waiting to consult her parents. The two share great-great-grandparents.

Queen Victoria & Prince Albert


The second-longest-reigning monarch of Britain married her first cousin in 1840. After he died in 1861, she mourned him for the rest of her life. She died in 1901.

Remember to like Jane Austen Summer Program on Facebook and follow @JASPhotline on Twitter! 

Jennifer Abella is a TV/movie/pop culture/knitting/sewing/Jane Austen geek. Oh, and a total Anglophile. Follow@nextjen on Twitter. 

One thought on “Kissin’ cousins: 6 couples in history who were related

    Margaret Harrington said:
    October 22, 2015 at 9:26 am

    Very interesting, Jennifer! Makes me want to find out if there are other cousin marriages in Jane Austen books. Also, what about in Jane’s own family?
    As I recall from Mansfield Park, the cousin connection is not an issue.
    Yet marrying first cousins in most cultures is still taboo, n’est pas?

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