6 November 2013

Mad King Carlos II of Spain (1661-1700)

The Habsburg Kings of Spain descended from Queen Joanna "The Mad" of Castile (1479-1555), who was mentally unstable and prone to fly into rages. Her descendants increased her inheritance by inbreeding: they preferred to marry either their cousin or their niece. These incestuous marriages resulted in the mentally and physically handicapped King Charles II (1661-1700), who possessed the physical peculiarities of the Habsburgs to an extent that made him little short of a monstrosity. 
The Habsburg King Charles II of Spain (to the right) was sadly degenerated with an enormous misshapen head. His Habsburg jaw stood so much out that his two rows of teeth could not meet; he was unable to chew. His tongue was so large that he was barely able to speak. His intellect was similarly disabled. His brief life consisted chiefly of a passage from prolonged infancy to premature senility. Charles was unable to walk properly, because his legs would not support him and he fell often. His body remained that of an invalid child. He was a mentally retarded and hypersensitive monarch, who grew steadily worse over the years. By the age of 35 his hair had fallen out, his teeth were nearly gone and his eyesight was failing. "Many people tell me," Charles II once said, "I am bewitched and I well believe it; such are the things I experience and suffer." 
Charles II of Spain was the result of generations of inbreeding within the Habsburg family. His mother was a daughter of his father's sister who had married her cousin the Emperor Ferdinand II. His great-grandfather, Philip II of Spain, too, had married a daughter of his sister who had married her cousin the Emperor Maximilian II. As a result, Charles II of Spain descended multiple times from Joanna "The Mad" as shown below.

The ancestors of Charles II often married either their cousin or their niece
The inbreeding coefficient of the Spanish Habsburgs increased strongly along generations from 0.025 for Philip, husband of Joanna "The Mad", to 0.254 for Charles II. In addition to inbreeding due to unions between close relatives, ancestral inbreeding from multiple remote ancestors makes a substantial contribution to the inbreeding coefficient of most Kings. It is speculated that the simultaneous occurrence in Charles II of Spain of 2 different genetic disorders (a hormone deficiency and tubular acidosis) that are determined by recessive alleles at 2 unlinked loci, could explain most of the complex clinical profile of this king, including his impotence and infertility which led to the extinction of the dynasty.


9 September 2013

Wolfgang Dietrich von Raitenau (1587-1617)

Wolfgang Dietrich von Raitenau was born on 26-3-1559 at Hofen Castle in Lochau near Bregenz in Further Austria. He was the son of colonel Hans Werner von Raintenau and Helene von Hohenems, a sister of Markus Sittikus von Hohenems Altemps (1533-1595), a niece of Pope Pius IV (1499–1565), and a sister-in-law of cardinal Charles Borromeo (1538–1584).          

Hofen Castle
Wolfgang Dietrich
Wolfgang Dietrich became Archbishop of Salzburg at the young age of 28 in 1587. After his election Wolfgang Dietrich continued the harsh measures of the Counter-Reformation initiated by his predecessors and in 1588 had all Protestants expelled from the city of Salzburg.  

Salome Alt
Shortly after his installation as Archbishop, Wolfgang Dietrich fell in love with a beautiful merchant´s daughter, named Salome Alt. They wanted to marry, but their appeal for an dispensation by the Pope, which would allow the archbishop to marry legally despite his profession, was refused. Nevertheless, the couple lived together for over 22 years. 
Salome Alt was never an ordinary mistress as she was always the only woman in the bishop´s live. The archbishop and his mistress had 16 children. Only 10 children survived their infancy, 2 of their sons married, and a further 2 followed their father´s profession and became clergymen.   

For his mistress Wolfgang Dietrich built the palace Mirabell, back than called "Altenau". Today the palace is situated in the centre of Salzburg, but in the 17th century it was situated on the edge of the medieval city. 

Wolfgang Dietrich was deposed as Archbishop after political conflicts in 1612. He was locked up in the dungeons of his former fortress Hohensalzburg. Salome had to flee with their children to a cousin in Upper Austria. She died there at the old age of 94. Wolf Dietrich died in captivity on 16-1-1617. 
Altenau was re-named "Mirabell" by Dietrich's cousin and successor, Markus Sittikus von Hohenems (1574-1619). The current neoclasical appearance of Mirabell dates from about 1818, when the place was restored after a blaze. 

Mirabell Palace around 1735

20 May 2013

How the Prince Regent mounted a horse

Those who knew him well called him 'Prinny'. To the nation he was HRH George Augustus Frederick (1762-1830), Prince of Wales. He is best known as 'The Prince Regent'. Later he was to become King George IV. George's amorous entanglements as Prince of Wales, regent and King, coupled with a love of the good life, undermined his health and added to his girth.

The Times wrote about the Prince's weight and the despair of his doctors, describing the difficulty the Prince Regent had in mounting his horse: 
    "An inclined place was constructed, rising to about the height of two feet and a half, at the upper end of which was a platform. His Royal Highness was placed in a chair on rollers, and so moved by the ascent, and placed on the platform, which was then raised by screws high enough to pass the horse under; and finally, his Royal Highness was let gently down into the saddle. By these means the Regent was undoubtedly able to enjoy in some degree the benefit of air and exercise".

27 April 2013

John George IV of Saxony was lovesick

As a child Caroline of Ansbach (1683-1737), George II of Great-Britains’s Queen Consort, had to cope with a hostile stepfather. In 1692, after the death of her father Johann Friedrich of Brandenburg-Ansbach (1654-86), her mother Eleonore Erdmuthe of Saxe-Eisenach (1662-96) married the 6-year-younger Elector John George IV of Saxony (1668-94). He had a preference for his teenage mistress, Sibylle von Neitschütz (1675-94), a daughter of his late father's notorious mistress. His father had tried to keep both his sons away from Sibylle, because she may have been John George’s illegitimate half-sister.

While Eleonore suffered from miscarriages and phantom pregnancies, Sibylle gave birth to a healthy baby girl. With her hold over the Elector increasing, Sibylle continually worked upon John George’s distaste for his wife. 
John George had had violent tantrums since his youth. Once a marital quarrel grew so fiery, that the incensed John George wounded several persons, and would have stabbed Eleonore, had he not been disarmed by his strong brother August, who tore “three blades, one after another, from his brother’s hand”, while “cutting all his fingers”. Later, John George forcefully bedded his hated wife again. Eleonore was now constantly exposed to “hard usuage”, and even feared for her life. 

Suddenly, Sibylle became ill and lay sick for 9 days. She was diagnosed with smallpox. All the time, John George remained at the bedside of his beloved mistress. Five doctors were consulted, but to no avail. Sybille died around 7 a.m. on April 4, 1694. She was only 19 years old.
Due to John George’s immoderate grief “a black melancholy and distraction were visible in his looks and behaviour”. In the night of April 19, little spots appeared on his body, too. On April 27, John George grew light-headed, and “continued raving mad”, until he expired at 5 p.m. at the age of 25. 

20 April 2013

Another theory about British King George III's illness

Modern medicine may help us to discover the real reasons behind King George III's erratic behaviour, writes historian Lucy Worsley. Using the evidence of thousands of George III's own handwritten letters, Dr. Peter Garrard and Dr. Vassiliki Rentoumi have been analysing his use of language. George III, when ill, often repeated himself, and at the same time his vocabulary became much more complex, creative and colorful. 

These are features that can be seen today in the writing and speech of patients experiencing the manic phase of psychiatric illnesses such as bipolar disorder. Mania, or harmful euphoria, is at one end of a spectrum of mood disorders, with sadness, or depression, at the other. George's being in a manic state would also match contemporary descriptions of his illness by witnesses.