Inbreeding and sadism — on a vast scale

I have been reading and enjoying Leslie Carroll’s Royal Pains: A Rogues’ Gallery of Brats, Brutes, and Bad Seeds. Focusing on Eastern and Western Europe from the 12th century onwards, it’s a brisk walk through royal excesses.

Having read about half the book now, I think that “bad seeds” is the operative phrase in the title. One of the stand-out features of European royalty is the inbreeding, because the royals confined themselves to an extremely small pool of available matrimonial candidates. This meant that cousin marriages were normative. That inbreeding didn’t just lead to such features as the infamously ugly Hapsburg jaw, it led to insanity. When that insanity was mixed with a toxic, already violent environment and unlimited power, it all too often manifested itself as grandiose sadism.

The most deranged royal killers were all the products of inbreeding mixed with extremely violent environments (cultures that tortured, violent parents, war and dislocation, etc.). Examples are Caligula, Vlad Dracula, Elizabeth Bathory, Ivan the Terrible, the Duke of Cumberland, and Peter III of Russia. As you can see, with the exception of the Duke of Cumberland, who used the military discipline structure to play out his sadism, the most famous sadists were unfettered totalitarian monarchs in the Roman Empire, Russia and Central Europe. Western European monarchs had stronger structural limits preventing the worst excesses of their insanity. They went insane (Juana of Spain, Ludwig of Bavaria), but they were pathetic, not violent.

And the ones I’ve named were very, very violent indeed. Although all lived in times that thought nothing of rape, torture, and mass murder, and that considered executions a form of public entertainment, the rulers I’ve named were infamous in their own times for the imagination they brought to causing suffering, for the scope of their sadism, and for the manifest, often sexual pleasure, they derived from their bloody, pain-filled escapades. They killed, not just for political advantage (or, in Bathory’s case, not at all for political advantage), but because they delighted in causing the maximum amount of pain to their victims.

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The above essay isn’t just to introduce you to an interesting book, or to ruin your current meal. It’s a lead-in to an American Thinker article about the inbreeding that goes on in the Muslim world. I’ve long known about the inbreeding, but I really never thought of it on the scale that Ann Barnhardt describes: 1,400 years of inbreeding.

I also knew that inbreeding causes diseases and mental defects (and think about that on a 1,400 year time line), but it wasn’t until I read Carroll’s books that it occurred to me that inbreeding, plus a violent culture, correlates to sadism. This may help explain why Islamic countries, aside from being tied to their Koran, have never been able to abandon their medieval approach to punishment (stoning, cutting off limbs, whipping, public hangings, etc.): It’s entirely possible that, as a result of birth defects, a significant part of the population, or at least of the rule classes, enjoys the spectacle at a very deep and sick level.

Cross-posted at Bookworm Room

The Bookworm Turns : A Secret Conservative in Liberal Land,
available in e-format for $4.99 at Amazon or Smashwords.

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