The Oxford historians' discovery of Vienna

Ferdy the Fool and the Mystique of Blue Blood

The observation that the concentration of fools and inadequates among European royalty and the higher aristocracy has been way above the average is not an expression of class envy. It is a simple statement of fact, supported by modern science to which the effects of inbreeding are well-known.

 

Charles II, the last Emperor of Spain

Now, if any family engaged in a consistent and almost uninterrupted inbreeding it was the Habsburgs. Intermarriages between close relatives – the term “double first cousins,” i.e. relatives who share all four grandparents, seemed specifically invented for the Habsburgs  – spelled out the end of the Spanish branch in 1700 (when the last Emperor Charles II died without an heir) and caused the War of the Spanish Succession. The Austrian Habsburgs narrowly escaped a similar fate a century later, when His Royal, Apostolic and Imperial Majesty Emperor Ferdinand I (1793-1875), popularly known in Vienna as Ferdy the Fool, was forced to abdicate in 1848.

It is revealing that poor Ferdy’s only legacy to posterity were the following words, uttered when informed at an inn that they had run out of dumplings: “I am the Emperor and I shall have dumplings!” Fool he may have been, but Ferdy’s small brain had somehow picked up the idea that a mystique hung around his otherwise completely useless person. Fortunately, his demands were limited to the culinary, but in theory he was invested with the power of life and death.

The Emperor Ferdinand I's sarcophagus in the royal crypt, Vienna

It speaks volumes for the power of human gullibility that the mystique of blue blood worked practically unchallenged for centuries. Even now, we see people investing more emotions in the wedding proceedings and private lives of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, a nice and perfectly ordinary couple, than in their own. Sad … Blue blood, whatever else it means, is more often than not the result of inbreeding. Disgusting …

 

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