After a re-read of the most delightful The Grand Sophy (Georgette Heyer) and its habit of making my mind drift towards the icky thought of cousins marrying, I decided to do a little research on consanguinity to see what were the home truths about it in the Regency era.
Here is a sciency definition of first cousin marriage: Globally, the most common form of consanguineous union contracted is between first cousins, in which the spouses share 1/8 of their genes inherited from a common ancestor, and so their progeny are homozygous.
And another wikipedia gem on cousin marriage today: Such marriages are often highly stigmatized today in the West, but marriages between first and second cousins nevertheless account for over 10% of marriages worldwide. They are particularly common in the Middle East, where in some nations they account for over half of all marriages.
In Regency England, the laws of marriage concerning consanguinity were ruled by the church. Here is a helpful list of who a bride and groom could not marry: http://www.eskimo.com/~lhowell/bcp1662/misc/kindred.html
I still can’t get over the thought of marrying one of my cousins, but I guess thinking about it in terms of 1/8 relation makes it not quite as knee jerkingly taboo. In Regency culture, when families were separated by distance and upbringing (as in the cases of The Grand Sophy) cousins met often in adulthood, rather than being raised together (as in the case of Mansfield Park, which the brother and sister like relationship is truly oo-cky).
What are your thoughts about this delicate matter? When looking at characters (whether reading or writing) how do you approach this subject?
For further reading on cousin marriage, check out this bibliography: https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:ntPMv-q1aecJ:www.consang.net/images/f/f4/Consanguinity_Historical.pdf+history+of+Consanguinity+in+england&hl=en&gl=us&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESgTlOg9GE4R09bDvZei_X6Ytp8aDSV0UTW1K57iKDWUf6V9tHYbTmzyA0InCeDzW3zGTWnJovpxd-07n2nwciZ6VH5hw9a0HQ6B5LQZi1nhbEiVk-AcTTib67JAihUS0nZ0VXib&sig=AHIEtbRnl4TAcKKbqdLdkUvv4c9c0ivsUQ