Was marrying cousins acceptable?In several works I teach from the Victorian Era, first cousins fell in love and married each other.  Was this socially acceptable or should we look at these...

Was marrying cousins acceptable?

In several works I teach from the Victorian Era, first cousins fell in love and married each other.  Was this socially acceptable or should we look at these characters differently?

18 Answers | Add Yours

mwestwood's profile pic

Posted on

Marrying cousins is not just limited to the past.  Remember the rock'n'roll star Jerry Lee Lewis (who is still alive) who married his 13 year old cousin? In some of the Appalachian states, this marriage of cousins goes on today.  In a very rural county of my state, for instance, one man married his cousin.  When told it is illegal to marry his first cousin, he was shocked!  (No, the theme from Deliverance was not played at his wedding)

On a more serious note, Wuthering Heights provides us with examples of this practice.  Since families were often very isolated as in Bronte's novel, there was little occasion to meet people outside of one's extended family.

pacorz's profile pic

Posted on

I agree with the previous posts - this was socially acceptable, as people had no understanding of genetics and consequently no reason to think the practice was not a good idea. In fact, in some ancient societies royal siblings sometimes married to keep the bloodlines pure.

cfett's profile pic

Posted on

Post #4 is correct: the previous posts are, indeed, right on target. I might add that several famous people, including author Edgar Allan Poe, married their first cousins (his was Virginia Clemm, often cited to be the love of his life).  There are still, now, many states that allow first cousins to marry -- and a handful that allow first cousins to marry under certain circumstances.  See the following link for more information:

http://www.ncsl.org/issues-research/human-services/state-laws-regarding-marriages-between-first-cousi.aspx

bullgatortail's profile pic

Posted on

The previous posts are right on target. Marrying cousins, even first cousins, was a way of keeping money and property in the family, and it was practiced at all levels of society. Only much later when negative genetic patterns were discovered was the practice frowned upon.

litteacher8's profile pic

Posted on

Cousins did marry.  Usually the reason was to keep the money in the family.  It was not until the latter part of the 19th century that the practice came under suspicion.  They had very little understanding of genetics before.  I found some interesting articles on the subject. 

Here is one on the evolution of cousin marriage in Victorian England: http://jfh.sagepub.com/content/11/3/285.abstract  

Here are some more rules about Victorian Courtship. http://www.clas.ufl.edu/users/agunn/teaching/enl3251/vf/pres/ziegenfuss.htm

rrteacher's profile pic

Posted on

Marriage among cousins was a hallmark of preindustrial societies in which elites placed a premium on keeping property within their families, but began to decline in the nineteenth in the United States, where several states in the United States had banned the practice before the Civil War. (It remains legal in many states) Whether these laws reflected contemporary social mores or not is another question. In Victorian England, in any case, it seems to have remained common among the wealthy middle classes, where families tended to be so tightly-knit, and obsessions with regulating young people's sexuality was so intense, that young people often had few chances to form intimate relationships with anyone other than their cousins. So in short, I don't think the characters you reference would have violated any taboo in marrying their cousins. I have listed two links below that address this issue:

 http://books.google.com/books?id=vNEv5tw-fjsC&pg=PA137&lpg=PA137&dq=marrying+cousins+victorian+england&source=bl&ots=9Lh-7BULyI&sig=Sbav_aKOu1yA76gI8tqUV_-cenI&hl=en&sa=X&ei=NdqrT6vlOoy3twfB_KGiAg&ved=0CGkQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=marrying%20cousins%20victorian%20england&f=false

http://www.plosbiology.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pbio.0060320

udonbutterfly's profile pic

Posted on

It was very common to keep lineage within the same circle or greater. Protecting lineage was such a valued thing that I am pretty sure that no one thought twice or batted their eyes at marrying their cousin. If only they knew this is what contributed to the high death rate in babies as well as the disfiguration and mental illness of the children as well sterility for men (which was usually blamed on the women). However it is seen through a lot of novels that time. Two that come mind would be Pride and Prejudice when Elizabeth was asked to marry her cousin and Wuthering Heights when Catherine married Linton and Hareton.

historiaamator's profile pic

Posted on

Yes,totally acpeetable. Ferdinad and Isabella (Catherine of Aragon's parents) were cousins and they are many instances of cousions marrying throughout history. It was always really prevalant in the royal families because dynstanies usaully marry to seal alliances. And if you only let your sons and daughters marry into the royal families of Spain,Russia,Scotland,France,and England--surely enough you get realted.

Also Albert and Victoria were cousins.

ayeshanihal's profile pic

Posted on

Yes in some communities they were allowed and in many countries it was not allowed and as i think no one might be doing it now a days.It might be still going on also but i have never heard.

 

wahnails's profile pic

Posted on

Yes it was, it wasn't a big deal until we found out that it wasn't good because the offspring might get weird DNA.

salimj's profile pic

Posted on

I do not know much about the genetic problems faced by the people who marries their cousins. But I am of the opinion that if there is a true love between two cousins they must get married

systemwave's profile pic

Posted on

It is still acceptible in MOST parts of the world, especially in rural areas and including Eastern European countries.  Albert Einstein married his first cousin.

angel-girl's profile pic

Posted on

Yes it was acceptable! In the past, people had no choice as there were high mortality and high infant mortality rates. Thus as long as they are not siblings they are allowed to marry as they need children to contribute the population of the country.

slygirl's profile pic

Posted on

Up until about the 1700's it was very common for cousins to marry. It was often to keep the family bloodline pure and intact. Another reason was to keep family property within the family.
ayy-dee's profile pic

Posted on

yes it is acceptable now days but in the past was it acceptable???

ayy-dee's profile pic

Posted on

Yes, But only in some communities. Majority of the communities were not allowed!! As mentioned in 1 of the posts above it was mainly to keep the money in the family.

historiaamator's profile pic

Posted on

Yes,totally acpeetable. Ferdinad and Isabella (Catherine of Aragon's parents) were cousins and they are many instances of cousions marrying throughout history. It was always really prevalant in the royal families because dynstanies usaully marry to seal alliances. And if you only let your sons and daughters marry into the royal families of Spain,Russia,Scotland,France,and England--surely enough you get realted.

We’ve answered 330,923 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question