The Kings of Spain descend from Queen Juana "the Mad" of Castile (1479-1555), who was mentally unstable and prone to fly into rages. Her descendants increased her inheritance by inbreeding: they preferred to marry either their cousin or their niece. These incestuous marriages resulted in the mentally and physically handicapped king Carlos II (1661-1700), who possessed the physical peculiarities of the Habsburgs to an extent that made him little short of a monstrosity.

Queen-Mother Marianna The Habsburg King Carlos II of Spain was sadly degenerated with an enormous misshapen head. His Habsburg jaw stood so much out that his two rows of teeth could not meet; he was unable to chew. His tongue was so large that he was barely able to speak. His intellect was similarly disabled. His brief life consisted chiefly of a passage from prolonged infancy to premature senility. Carlos' family was anxious only to prolong his days and thought little about his education, so that he could barely read or write. He had been fed by wet nurses until the age of 5 or 6 and was not allowed to walk until almost fully grown. Even then, he was unable to walk properly, because his legs would not support him and he fell several times. His body remained that of an invalid child. The nature of his upbringing, the inadequacy of his education, the stiff etiquette of his court, his dependence upon his mother and his superstition helped to create a mentally retarded and hypersensitive monarch.

King Philip IV of Spain had fathered 5 sons in two marriages, but upon his death in 1665 the 3-year-old Carlos (below left) was the only one that had survived. He became King of Spain and his Austrian mother Mariana (above right) assumed the regency, assisted by her favourite clergyman. In 1675, Carlos was presented with a decree to prolong the powers of his mother on the grounds of his own incapacity. Carlos refused to sign the document and he secretly wrote a letter to his bastard half-brother, Don Juan. Later, he was forced to pay a visit to his mother. After two hours, he emerged crying from her room. Once and for all Carlos' act of rebellion had ended.

Young Carlos II Carlos II suffered one further disability, politically more significant than all the rest: his inability to consummate his marriages was evident from his birth. Nevertheless, he was married twice. His first wife was the French Princess Marie Louise of Orléans (1662-1689)1. When the Sun King informed her of the proposed marriage and added that he could not have done more for his own daughter, Marie Louise alledgedly replied: "But you could have done more for your niece!". Poor Marie Louise was distraught. From the time of her betrothal in July until her departure for Spain late in September 1679, she spent much of her time weeping.
Raised in the gaiety of the French court, Marie Louise was suffocated by the gloomy Spanish Court with its Francophobe courtiers. Marie Louise's French servants were accused of plotting, her nurse was tortured, and her French-speaking parrot was strangled. Because it was forbidden to touch the Spanish Queen, Marie Louise once nearly died from a fall from a horse; a bold man, who had the courage to rescue her, escaped as fast as his horse could take him. Her frequent letters to her father detailed the atmosphere of hostility and isolation in which Marie Louise lived. In these circumstances, she gave in to gluttony.
Still, Carlos II was font of his wife. For 10 years, the couple struggled in vain to beget a child. It seems that, although Carlos attempted intercourse, he suffered from very premature ejaculation, so that he was unable to achieve penetration. Marie Louise confided in the French ambassador, that "she was really not a virgin any longer, but that as far as she could figure things, she believed she would never have children". The French ambassador even managed to get a pair of Carlos' drawers and had them examined by surgeons for traces of sperm, but the doctors could not agree about their findings.
2nd wife Maria Ana Marie Louise became increasingly corpulent and died in February 1689 after 2 days of agony2. Her death made a deep impression on Carlos; he demanded the opening of the coffins containing the decaying relics of his predecessors.
Within 3 months, Carlos was remarried to Maria Ana (1667-1740, to the right) of the fertile Neuburg Line of the Wittelsbach family. She was exorcised to promote her fertility, but she couldn't cure Carlos' sexual defects either. Like the Queen-Mother, Maria Ana supported the Austrian Habsburgs, and amassed a hugh amount of money. Still, like her predecessor, she let the life of a prisoner. Often she was seen staring out of the window, which was strictly forbidden to the Queen of Spain.

King Carlos II of Spain Carlos' invalidity could have been caused by a bone disease, acromegaly, the result of an inherited endocrine dysfunction. This illness would explain his strange physical appearance, his over-large head and his impotence. The illness gave rise to fits of dizziness and what seem to have been epileptic spasms. The description of the numerous ailments that afflicted him from birth - suppurating ulcers, diseased bones and teeth, nervous difficulties - can also suggest congenital syphilis, the quite probable result of his father's frequent visits to the brothels of Madrid. A serious attack in 1627 and the syphilitic symptoms marking his final illness sustain the hypothesis of syphilis. An additional cause of his mental and physical defects can be found in he fact that his father and mother were uncle and niece and that their immediate ancestors were freightening closely related, too.
King Carlos II of Spain
Over the years Carlos grew steadily worse. He was lame, epileptic and bald at the age of 35. His hair had fallen out, his teeth were nearly gone and his eyesight was failing. In 1698 he had three fits and became deaf. The doctors put freshly-killed pigeons on his head to prevent dizziness and applied the steaming entrails of mammals to his stomach to keep him warm, but he died nevertheless. "Many people tell me," Carlos once said, "I am bewitched and I well believe it; such are the things I experience and suffer." His death started the War of the Spanish Succession.

Copyright © 1996-2009 by J.N.W. Bos.   All rights reserved.


"People tell me that Princesses are stupid. I wonder that we are not all idiots."

Princess Eulalia of Spain (1864-1958)


  1 Marie Louise was a daughter of Philippe of Orléans, the only brother of Louis XIV the Sun King, and Henriette Anne of Great-Britain. That Duke of Orléans is described by Louis de Rouvroy (1675-1755), Duke of Saint-Simon: "He was a potbellied little man, propped up on heels like stilts; gotten up like a woman with rings, bracelets, and jewels everywhere; a long wig, black and powdered, spread out in front; ribbons wherever he could put them; and exuding perfumes of all kinds...".
  2 Marie Louise suffered from abdominal cramps, diarrhea and a feeling of suffocation. Marie Louise and her mother, Henriette Anne of Great-Britain, may have suffered from the heriditary disease porphyria. For more information on porphyria see
George III of Great-Britain or Frederick William I of Prussia.


Content: Joan Bos. Design: Klaas Vermaas. Info: FAQ or RSS Feed.