10 Famous People Who Married their Cousins

A consanguineous relationship, wherein one marries a cousin, is forbidden by law or convention in many societies. The argument against such unions is that they present the danger of genetic problems in the next generation. However in many parts of the world, marrying a cousin is not uncommon and causes range from economic advantages and traditional compulsions about lineage to simply love. Here are ten famous people who – for whatever reason – married their cousins.

  1. Rudy Giuliani

    One of the most recent instances of a famous personality entering a consanguineous relationship is Rudy Giuliani, former Mayor of New York City. In 1968, soon after graduating from law school, he married Regina Peruggi, whom Giuliani had known since childhood and believed to be his third cousin. However by the mid-70s the marriage was in trouble and in 1975 they agreed to a trial separation. In 1982, the Giuliani-Peruggi marriage was ended in two ways - a civil divorce was issued by the end of the year while a Roman Catholic Church annulment of the Giuliani-Peruggi marriage was granted at the end of 1983. According to Giuliani, the latter was important because he discovered that he and his wife were second cousins - rather than third cousins as he had earlier believed - and they did not have the Church dispensation thus needed.

  2. Jerry Lee Lewis

    One of the earliest legends of American rock and roll, Jerry Lee Lewis almost created a scandal when he married Myra, a first cousin once removed. She was only thirteen at the time of the marriage which took place in 1958 and which as Jerry’s third. Soon after the news leaked through the press, Lewis found his May tour of Britain cancelled only after three concerts. The negative publicity followed him to American and for a while he was blacklisted in the rock and roll scene. Eventually Lewis moved to country and western music and achieved popularity in those genres. The marriage resulted in two children but ended in divorce in 1970.
  3. Albert Einstein

    The great scientist married his cousin Elsa in 1919. Elsa was his first cousin maternally and second cousin on the paternal side. This was Einstein’s second marriage, the first having ended in divorce from Mileva Maric with whom he already had two sons and allegedly one daughter before marriage. Elsa and Einstein did not have any children and she died in 1939 due to a series of illnesses related to the heart and kidney. And even though Einstein never remarried after Elsa, he continued to have numerous relationships with women.
  4. Franklin D Roosevelt

    One of the most famous persons to have married their cousins is Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The thirty-second President of United States married his cousin Eleanor despite fierce resistance from his mother. Although the two had met briefly in childhood, the couple became reacquainted after a dinner at the White House in 1902 held by Eleanor’s uncle and Franklin’s fifth cousin, President Teddy Roosevelt. Franklin and Eleanor were married on St Patrick’s Day in 1905 and despite numerous alleged affairs on the part of the former, went on to have six children.
  5. H.G.Wells

    The British writer Herbert George Wells was one of the pioneers of the science fiction genre in English novels even though he was also a prolific writer in many other genres, including contemporary novels, history, politics and social commentary and even writing text books. In 1891 Wells, married his cousin Isabel Mary Wells but left her only three years after for Amy Catherine Robbins. The latter was one of his students who he went on to marry the next year.
  6. Edgar Allan Poe

    Another famous writer who married his cousin is Edgar Allen Poe. At the age of twenty, after his mother died and his father left, Poe moved in with his uncle’s family in Baltimore. It was here that he met his cousin Virginia who was only seven at the time. Eventually Poe fell in love with her and married her in 1835 when she was thirteen. In January 1845 Poe published his poem, "The Raven", but the couple could not experience the full measure of Poe’s literary success as  his wife died of tuberculosis in 1847, a couple of years after its publication. Incredibly enough Poe himself died two years later when he was only forty.
  7. Charles Darwin

    Despite all his theories about evolution and natural selection, Charles Darwin did not look very far for a life partner. In 1837, while visiting his Wedgewood relatives Darwin met his first cousin Emma whom he found charming, intelligent, and cultured. For over two years he kept agonizing over his decision to marry but finally proposed to Emma in November 1839. The two were married in January the next year at Maer in an Anglican ceremony arranged to suit the Unitarians, of which Emma was a firm supporter.
  8. Thomas Jefferson

    Thomas Jefferson, the great statesman of America and the third President of United States, is chiefly remembered as the principal author of the Declaration of Independence. In 1772, at age 28 Jefferson married his third cousin Martha Wayles Skelton. At the time Martha was a widow having lost her first husband and infant son to illnesses. Jefferson and Martha had six children, but only two daughters reached adulthood, and only the eldest survived past the age of 25. After the death of his wife, Jefferson never remarried as he had promised Martha but historians believe that in 1789 while he was in Paris as the US minister, he had a relationship with his young mixed-race slave Sally Hemings.
  9. Johann Sebastian Bach

    Bach was one of the most famous music composers of Europe whose works form the pinnacle of the Baroque period. In 1706 four months after taking up the a post as organist at St. Blasius's in Mühlhausen, Bach married his second cousin, Maria Barbara Bach. Together they would have seven children, four of whom survived to adulthood, including Wilhelm Friedemann Bach and Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach who became important composers in their own right. Not much is known about Bach’s marriage to Maria but he remarried less than two years after her death.
  10. Andre Gide

    This French author won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1947. Gide’s literary career was greatly influenced by the symbolist movement in the early days as well as the advent of anticolonialism between the two World Wars. In 1895, after his mother's death, he married his cousin Madeleine Rondeaux, but the marriage remained unconsummated, probably because of his homosexual leanings. In 1916, Gide took as his lover the fifteen year-old Marc Allégret, who was the son of Elie Allégret, the best man at Gide's wedding. The two fled to London, and in a fit of vengeance his wife burned all his correspondence, "the best part of myself," as Gide was later to comment.