40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain

40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain

Trista - February 6, 2019

Born in 1661, King Charles II of Spain was the last Habsburg ruler of the country. Born into a family whose inbreeding was of epic proportions, he suffered severe deformities that led to him being known as El Hechizado, the bewitched. Charles II became King of Spain at the age of three after his father died in 1665. Charles II often suffered from ill health and much of his reign consisted of others ruling the country in his stead. This led to internal political struggle within his family over who would call the shots. His mother and illegitimate half-brother’s feud led to political turmoil and arranged marriages for the young, sick king. Poor King Charles II suffered through ill health, political unrest and two dead wives before he died in 1700. Childless, his will named Phillip Anjou as successor to the throne, leaving the Spanish Empire in uproar and reeling into the War of Spanish Succession. Read on to learn more about his tragic life and reign.

40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain
A sketch of King Charles II. Getty Images/ Factinate.

40. He Was the Epitome of Habsburg Inbreeding

The Habsburgs were notorious for marrying cousins, uncles, aunts, whatever, to keep power within their family. Case in point: All of Charles’ great-grandparents were descended from the same parents: Philip I and Joanna of Castile. Basically, their children had all married their cousins, who had all married their cousins (or someone of a close relation). By the time Charles came along, he was more inbred than if his parents had been brother and sister.

40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain
King Charles II of Spain by Juan Carreño de Miranda . Wikipedia.

39. King Charles’ Was Known as El Hechizado

As a result of Charles’ inbreeding, he was severely deformed. The famous “Habsburg jaw” was a severe underbite; Charles’ was so intense that he could not even close his mouth, not even for eating. The people of Spain had a nickname for him: El Hechizado, which loosely translates as “the Bewitched.”

40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain
Painting of Charles II with an even more protruding jaw. Steemit Images.

38. King Charles’ Jaw Was Deformed

The Habsburg jaw was quite common among European royals who did not realize that their habit of marrying cousins was making their successors increasingly feeble-minded and physically deformed. Charles had the Habsburg jaw so severely that he did not learn to talk until later in childhood. He spoke very little throughout his life. He also did not eat much because his jaw was so problematic.

40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain
Marie Louise of Orléans (Paris, 26 March 1662, – Madrid, 12 February 1689), Queen Consort of Spain from 1679 to 1689 as the first wife of King Charles II of Spain.
José García Hidalgo – Museo Nacional del Prado/ Wikimedia Commons/ Public Domain.

37. His First Wife Thought He Was Disgusting

As with so many other royal marriages, Charles’ marriage to Marie Louise was about gaining and maintaining power, not about love. In fact, she was repulsed by his disfigured appearance. France’s ambassador to Spain wrote that “the Catholic King is so ugly as to cause fear and he looks ill.” Still, the marriage went forward.

40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain
Charles II of Spain. Wikimedia Commons/ Public Domain.

36. King Charles Married a French Woman

The Habsburgs were so fiercely inbred because they wanted to keep power within their family. Their influence was so widespread that members of the family could be found in palaces all over Europe. Charles married a non-Habsburg, Marie Louise d’Orleans, leading to fears of French influence in Spain. She and her attendants were frequently accused of plotting against the crown, and people would riot outside of her Madrid palace.

40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain
Louis Armand stood in for Charles at his wedding. Altesses.eu.

35. King Charles Couldn’t Attend His Own Wedding

It’s already been stated that Charles and Marie Louise didn’t get married because they were in love with each other; her husband’s deformed features disgusted the bride. Charles was so sick that he actually couldn’t attend his own wedding. Instead, Louis Armand I, a cousin of Marie Louise, stood in for him. This is known as a proxy marriage, and the practice was not uncommon at the time.

40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain
Miniature of Marie Louise d’Orléans, future Queen of Spain by Jean Petitot le vieux in 1678. Wikimedia Commons/ Public Domain.

34. The Marriage Was Not Happy for Marie Louise

Her husband’s disfigurement didn’t just repulse Marie Louise. His ongoing poor health, especially his sterility, caused her an incredible amount of mental anguish. To make matters worse, no one in the Spanish court was allowed to touch the queen. Having left her home in France and her family to marry Charles, she experienced incredible isolation and depression.

40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain
Coat of arms of Queen Marie Louise. Heralder/ Wikimeda.

33. Marie Louise Died in 1689

One afternoon in 1689, Marie Louise went out horseback riding. She complained of stomach pain and died that night. Many people speculated that she had been poisoned, presumably by Mariana, Charles’ mother. However, modern scientists believe that she may have died of appendicitis. However, we will never know the extent of intrigue at Charles’ court and what ultimately killed his first wife.

40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain
A portrait of Olympia Mancini (1640-1708), mother of Prince Eugene of Savoy. Pierre Mignard/ Belevedere.at/ Wikimedia Commons/ Public Domain.

32. Ritual Sacrifice Was Blamed For Marie Louise’s Death

While rumors abounded as to the cause of Marie Louise’s death, some speculated that Charles’ mother had ordered Olympia Mancini, the Countess of Soissons, to poison her. She had been implicated in other poisonings, mostly in France, and had been accused of witchcraft. Some claimed that she was engaging in ritual sacrifice.

40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain
A portrait of Olympia’s son, Prince Eugene of Savoy. Jacob van Schuppen/ rijksmuseum.nl/ Wikimedia Commons/ Public Domain.

31. Olympia’s Father Was a Magician

Olympia wasn’t the only member of her family to be implicated for witchcraft. Her father, Lorenzo Mancini, was known for engaging in sorcery and other dark magic. Many believed that he tried to engage in necromancy (contacting the dead and even trying to bring them back to life) as well as astrology (fortune-telling based on stars and planets).

40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain
The Spanish people rioted against Marie Louise. Shutterstock.

30. He Wasn’t Responsible for Spain’s Decline

The Habsburg dynasty in Spain had been in decline for over a century, but Charles frequently gets the blame for it. Spain was in a period of colonization, and the country was spending a lot of money expanding its empire and managing its colonies. Revenues were not matching these expenditures, so the economy was in decline. Charles inherited a country in turmoil and had long gotten the blame for its decline.

40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain
Recognition of the Duke of Anjou as King of Spain, under the name of Philip V , November 16, 1700 by François Gérard. Wikimedia Commons.

29. King Charles Didn’t Produce a Successor

Possibly because of his severe inbreeding, Charles was sterile. He had no children with either of his two wives, so in his will, Philip of Anjou was named as his successor. Regarding lineage, Philip was so far from the Spanish throne that a huge dispute arose over who actually had the right to it. That dispute became the War of Spanish Succession.

40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain
A painting of Charles. Art Prints On Demand/ Madrid, Museo del Prado.

28. He Aged Rapidly

Charles had poor health throughout his entire life, again, probably because of the inbreeding for which the Habsburgs were so well-known. By the time he was in his thirties, he was beginning to go bald. In the palace, there was talk that he looked elderly. He was also having hallucinations. The court realized that he would not live much longer, and they were right.

40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain
A family tree for King Charles II of Spain. Xeno Historian/Faith Web.

27. Portraits of King Charles II are Unrealistic

Apparently, Charles’ deformities were so severe that he was quite unpleasant to behold. While paintings that we have of him show how severe his Habsburg jaw was, they don’t show us the extent of his congenital disabilities. Whenever painters were commissioned for his portrait, they were told that they had to depict a virulent, healthy young man, quite the opposite of real life.

40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain
People really did believe that Charles was bewitched. Science Fiction.

26. His Death Led to Witch Trials

After Charles II died, there was a massive squabble about who his successor should be. The Bishop of Segovia and Inquisitor General, Balthasar de Mendoza, formally charged Froilan Diaz, Charles’ confessor, with bewitching the king. Diaz was acquitted, so Mendoza arrested everyone who declared that he was not guilty of witchcraft. A reign of terror ensued.

40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain
Infant mortality among with Habsburgs was exceptionally high. Ebenezer Learning Center/ Can Stock Photo Inc. / andreykuzmin.

25. Charles Was Not the Only Habsburg With Poor Health

Hollywood has made quite a few movies about the Habsburgs, in which they are portrayed as having lives of ease and absolute comfort (think Marie Antoinette, who was herself a Habsburg). In real life, though, their poor health due to inbreeding was some of the worst in the world. Case in point: while Spanish peasants had an infant mortality rate of about 20%, the infant mortality rate of the Habsburg royals was 30%.

40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain
The Inquisition tortured and executed heretics. The Catholic Man.

24. The Inquisition, Not Charles, Ruled Spain

King Charles was mentally and physically unfit to rule. When a crown prince is unfit to govern, instead of declaring a different successor to the throne, the king often wanted to hide the prince’s inabilities from the public. As a result, a regent or other body governs in place of the king. For Charles, the de facto authority that ruled Spain was the Inquisition. Many people died as heretics as a result.

40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain
Charleroi was named after King Charles. Orange Smile.

23. Belgium Has a City Named After King Charles II

In 1666, when Charles was only five years old, and rumors were already spreading throughout Europe about the crown prince’s poor health, the people of Belgium decided to name a city after him. The city had previously been known as Charnoy, but they renamed at Charles-Roi, which translates as “King Charles.” Today, it is known as Charleroi, a shortened version of Charles-Roi.

40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain
King Charles’ DNA was compromised through inbreeding. Cheshire Library Science.

22. Charles’ DNA Was Deficient…

Marrying a relative causes genetic problems for the children because of how the genes interact with each other. Usually, if one parent gives a gene that is deficient, the corresponding gene from the other parent cancels it out. For inbred children, though, often inherit the same genes from both parents. Case in point: 25% of Charles’ genes were duplicates, meaning that fully one-quarter of his genes were the same from both parents.

40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain
King Charles’ sister Margaret Theresa. Pinterest.

21. …But He Was Also Unlucky

True, Charles had an incredibly high inbreeding coefficient that undoubtedly contributed to his health problems. Surprisingly, though, his sister, Margaret Theresa, didn’t share those problems (though she did have the Habsburg jaw). She was born into the same inbred family and had the same “inbred coefficient,” but many saw her as a pretty young woman. She might have been more fit to rule than her brother.

40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain
Princess Margaret of Spain. Wikimedia Commons/ Public Domain.

20. Margaret’s Marriage Was a Big Deal

Because of Charles’ ill health, the marriage of Princess Margaret was considered a tremendous issue, at least in part to ensure that there was a successor to the throne. Like so many behind her, though, Margaret married her paternal cousin, who was also her maternal uncle (inbreeding causes family trees to grow straight up without any branches). She married Leopold I, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.

40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain
Margaret died in childbirth. Wikimedia Commons/ Public Domain.

19. Princess Margaret Had Her Own Health Problems

Though not nearly as sick as her brother, Margaret had her own health problems that she had to contend with. Many hoped that she would produce an heir to the throne, but she was unable to have any children. She had two miscarriages and, though she did give birth to six children, only one survived infancy. He would become the Dauphin of France, not the King of Spain. Margaret died during her seventh pregnancy.

40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain
The flag of Portugal. Activ Doctors Online.

18. Portugal Became Independent Under Charles

Spain was an absolute wreck when Charles ascended to the throne. It had been embroiled in a 28-year-long war, the Portuguese Restoration War, which ended with the Treaty of Lisbon. The Treaty of Lisbon recognized Portugal as an independent, sovereign state with its own ruling family. The new country would be ruled by the House of Braganza, whose members enjoyed much better health than the Habsburgs.

40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain
The red-striped areas were Spain’s prior to the death of King Charles II. SSQQ.

17. A Political Earthquake

Poor King Charles. He inherited a mess that he did not have the mental capacity to manage (he could barely even eat or talk), and his inability to produce an heir led to wars that split the Spanish Empire. Because of the War of Spanish Succession following his death, Spain lost its claim to parts of Holland, Italy, and Britain. The Habsburgs still retained most of the power in Europe, but their hold on Spain came to an end.

40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain
The area in red shows the Habsburg Empire after the death of Charles II. Euratlas.

16. The End of the Habsburg Dynasty

The death of King Charles II brought about an end to Habsburg rule in Spain and was the beginning of the end of the Habsburg Empire. They would retain their hold on Austria and the Holy Roman Empire (which was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire) for a few more decades, but they would never again have the same power and prestige. Basically, their inbreeding led to their destruction.

40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain
Fernando de Valenzuela, portrait by Claudio Coello, c. 1660. Wikimedia Commons/ Public Domain.

15. Intrigue at Charles’ Court

Because of Charles’ inability to rule, there was a veritable “game of thrones” at his court. Allegedly, the person that someone had to see to garner favors in the court was Fernando de Valenzuela, who was affectionately known as “duende,” meaning that he knew how to get sweets with the king.

40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain
Don Fernando de Valenzuela, Marquis of Villasierra, portrait by Juan Carreño de Miranda, c. 1675. Valenzuela may have been the lover of Charles’ mother. Wikipedia.

14. People Traded Positions in Charles’ Court

The irony of Charles’ court is the level of anarchy that existed within it. Fernando de Valenzuela, who may have actually been the lover of Charles’ mother, was the man who introduced ambassadors in the court. He was himself appointed to be ambassador to Venice, but traded that to be closer, in Granada, then trading that role to be prime minister.

40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain
Charles’ mother, Mariana. Diego Velázquez – The Yorck Project (2002) 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei (DVD-ROM), distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH / Wikipedia.

13. The Family Feuds Were Epic

When Charles ascended to the throne at the age of three, his mother Mariana, served as queen regent, ruling in his place. Her lover was Fernando de Valenzuela, the man behind much of the intrigue at court. To make matters worse, Charles had a half-brother, John of Austria the Younger, that many people believed was the legitimate ruler.

40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain
John of Austria the Younger, Charles’ half-brother. Wikimedia Commons/ Public Domain.

12. John Was Probably More Fit to Rule

Charles’ mother declared him unfit to rule, but she wasn’t prepared to hand the throne over to the bastard son of her deceased husband. If she had, the War of Spanish Succession might have been avoided. Not only did John not have the disabilities that Charles had, but he was also a decorated military figure who had made gains in the Netherlands, Portugal, and Dunkirk.

40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain
Coat of arms of John of Austria the Younger. Heralder – Menéndez Pidal y Navascués, Faustino, Hugo. El escudo; at Menéndez Pidal y Navascués, Faustino; O´Donnell y Duque de Estrada, Hugo; Lolo, Begoña. Símbolos de España. Madrid: Centro de Estudios Políticos y Constitucionales, 1999/ Wikimedia.

11. John Would Seize the Throne

John of Austria was quite popular in Spain, seeing as he was a decorated military figure and the king, his half-brother, was not even able to take care of his own self. He ousted Mariana, who had been serving as queen regent, and in 1677, initiated a coup in which he obtained the throne from Charles. He died two years later; the rumor was that he had been poisoned.

40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain
Titus Oates. Wikimedia Commons/ Public Domain.

10. The Game of Thrones Continues

Shortly after John of Austria seized the throne, he found himself at the center of a fictitious plot instigated by Titus Oates. Oates fabricated a story in which Catholic forces, presumably from Spain and France, would invade Protestant England in a bid to bring Catholicism back. The plot was revealed to be a discovery when Oates couldn’t say what John looked like, meaning that he had never spoken with him.

40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain
This is an official portrait of Felipe V (1683-1746), the first Bourbon king of Spain. Jean Ranc/ Wikimedia Commons/ Public Domain.

9. The Country Soon Headed for War

There was much uncertainty and fighting over the crown following the death of King Charles II in 1700. Ultimately it was given to Philip of Anjou, aka Philip V. Unfortunately, the web of political marriages throughout Europe meant that though he was the son of Maria Theresa, Charles’ sister, he was also the son of France’s Grand Dauphin. There would soon be trouble between France and Spain.

40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain
Marie-Anne de Neubourg, Charles’ second wife. Robert Gabriel Gence – Bayonne, musée basque/ Wikimedia Commons/ Public Domain.

8. When His Wife Died, Charles Remarried

Marie Louis d’Orleans passed away in 1689, and there was no clear successor to the throne. The coup led by John of Austria made the task of securing an heir even more critical, so the court betrothed Charles to Maria Anna of Neuberg. Her family’s claim to fame was that they had a lot of healthy boys, so surely, she would produce an heir.

40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain
A portrait of Maria Anna of Neuburg on horseback by Luca Giordano in Prado Museum, Madrid. Wikimedia Commons/ Public Domain.

7. Unfortunately, Charles Was Sterile

Though Maria Anna would become the Queen of Spain, she would hold very little power. Her primary job was to produce a male heir, but this task was something that she would not be able to do. No matter how many healthy boys had been born into her family, nothing could change the fact that Charles was sterile. After his death, his autopsy would reveal that he had only one testicle, and it was shriveled.

40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain
Part of Heidelberg Castle, where Maria Anna was born, burned by the French in 1689 and never rebuilt. Malis/ Wikimedia Commons/ Public Domain.

6. Trouble Brewed Between Spain and Austria

Maria Anna was from the other Habsburg stronghold, the Austrian Empire. Seeing as her only job was to produce a male heir for Spain, and she was unable to fulfill this role, though, he became a political pawn in a growing family feud between the Spanish and Austrian Habsburgs. She was loyal to her Austrian family, and her husband had to banish some of her German attendants.

40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain
Coat of arms as Queen Consort (1689-1700). Heralder/ Avilés, José de Avilés, Marqués de (1780). Ciencia heroyca, reducida a las leyes heráldicas del blasón, Madrid: J. Ibarra, (Madrid: Bitácora, 1992)/ Wikimedia Commons.

5. Maria Anna Couldn’t Get a Break

When Charles II died without an heir, the line of Habsburg succession in Spain came to an end. Maria Anna had to move around to different places but could not escape the escalating feud between the Austrian and Spanish Habsburgs. She finally fell out of the spotlight, moved to France, and married a barrel-maker. Classic celebrity trying to live life on her own terms.

40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain
French stage actress Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923) as Queen in Victor Hugo’s Ruy Blas. Wikimedia Commons/ Public Domain.

4. Maria Ana Was an Inspiration for One of Victor Hugo’s Novels

The French novelist Victor Hugo, who wrote classics like Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, depicted the life of Maria Anna in a play called Ruy Blas. It is about a queen (presumably Maria Anna) who married a commoner. Ultimately, though, the play is a tragedy, meaning everyone dies at the end.

40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain
Philip IV of Spain by Diego Velázquez in 1644. Wikimedia Commons/ Public Domain.

3. Inbreeding Made Charles’ Family Tree Complicated

Charles’ father was Philip IV of Spain, and his mother was Mariana. The two were paternal cousins, as well as uncle and niece. This means that Charles was not only their son; he was also his father’s great-nephew, his mother’s first cousin, and his father’s second cousin. Complications like that one were common among the Habsburgs.

40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain
Philip IV’s most prominent favourite and minister, the Count-Duke Olivares, by Diego Velázquez. Wikimedia Commons/ Public Domain.

2. Superstition About King Charles’ Health Problems

Though Charles’ impotence was almost certainly due to his inbreeding, various people were called to court to try to figure out the “true cause.” An astrologer suggested that when his father died (when Charles was three), he did not give him a proper goodbye. His mother actually had Philip IV exhumed so that Charles could bid him a fitting farewell. Needless to say, the effort didn’t work.

40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain
Spanish gold coin minted in 1700, the last year of the reign of Charles II. Numismática Pliego/ Wikimedia.

1. King Charles’ Autopsy Was Sensationalized

People loved to speculate about Charles’ poor health during his lifetime, and rumors abounded as to the cause of El Hechizado’s deformities. When a doctor performed the autopsy on his body, he declared that the king’s body had no blood, that his intestines had rotted, that his brain was waterlogged, and that he had just one shriveled testicle. People ate the story up.


Where Did We Find This Stuff? Here Are Our Sources:

“King Charles II of Spain.” Wikipedia.

“42 Fiery Facts About Charles II, The Bewitched King Of Spain,” by Matthew Burke. Factinate. December 21, 2018.

“The Strange Life of Charles II Of Spain”. Ranker.

“The Mystery Of Why Charles II Of Spain’s Head Was Full Of Water”. The Vintage News. Jun 25, 2018