The Hapsburg Jaw

The royal houses of Europe have historically been inbred freaks. Perhaps it was something like this that fascinated Bacon in Velasquez. Charles II of Spain was probably the most wretched of all these creatures, unable to chew his food because of his inherited deformity, impotent, and an idiot. It’s often called “the prominent Hapsburg lip,” but that makes it sound too lofty — like “a prominent Roman nose” — because the reason for the deformities in these particular families was dozens of incestuous affairs. The mouth that might have contributed to Bacon’s nightmarish images is apparent in Velasquez’s portrait of Philip IV of Spain.

Source: Wikipedia

It’s a case of mandibular prognathism and it is an unfortunate genetic condition that makes the bones of the jaw grow and protrude beyond the upper jaw. Philip doesn’t seem to be too badly affected and he seemed to be otherwise quite well formed, if Velasquez’s full-body portrait is anything to go by.

Source: Wikipedia

It’s actually very satisfying to see that years of inbreeding made the grotesque Charles, that an aspiration to keep the land and wealth of the very top of society in the family resulted in genetic scum. It was not an unfortunate mutation that befell these people but years and years of fluid exchange between family members bent on nursing their greed. I know that’s a horrible thought, but it’s impossible to feel sorry for royalty. I’ll go to sleep with a smile on my face instead, happy that my mother isn’t also my aunt. I’m sure I would sleep even better were I also a prince, but we all have to work with what we’ve been given.

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