It is possible, I now know. to have a relation who is simultaneously your grandmother and great-grandmother.
I had to have someone draw little diagrams to show me how, though.
My subjects? the hippy happy Habsburgs: not so much a royal line as a royal pretzel.
By the time Mother Nature declared enough was enough with King Charles II of Spain,born the last of his line in 1661, she had sent enough warning signs to fill an asylum, all of them swept under the royal hearthrug in the name of blue blood and political powerplay.
I believe the chief problem was uncles marrying nieces.Charles’s father was Charles’s mother’s uncle. Thus, Margarita of Austria, being Philip’s mother, was Charles’s grandmother; yet his mother called the same woman grandmother – rendering her Charles’s great-grandmother.
It does not help that the founding mother of the Habsburg dynasty was called Joanna The Mad.
No-one can ascertain whether this early insanity was in her nature, or as a result of the unhappiness of her life. If there was any genetic foundation, though, the Habsburg dynasty did not start out with favourable odds. It is said Joanna was two of Charles’ 16 great-great-great-grandmothers, six of his 32 great-great-great-great-grandmothers, and six of his 64 great-great-great-great-great-grandmothers.Though I have not done the maths.
Nature took care of it, but not before Charles had lived a wretched existence. He could not speak until he was four, nor walk until he was eight. His huge tongue was too big for his mouth, and he drooled. His personal hygiene was abominable, his grasp of kingship and its intricacies deplorable. He was impotent and rendered a beautiful wife deeply depressed, finally choosing the grave over life with him.
It is not a good idea to become too inbred. Nature will take away reproduction rights, sooner or later.
Which is why five piglets have just taken a very long plane journey.
The small islands in the South Atlantic which are a like little bit of Surrey – The Falkland Islands – have been having a spot of bother with their porcine population.
Only three people on the islands have pigs at all; and things between the little porkers have been getting a bit too chummy.
The classic signs of inbreeding have begun to appear. And litters are getting progressively smaller.
So the good people of this improbable piece of England, thousands of miles away from the mainland, put their heads together. Eureka, they said. We’ll have some pig semen imported.
Farmer Andrez Short, whose family settled on the Falklands back in 1843, decided to teach himself how to artificially inseminate pigs, he told the BBC in a report today: He added: “I’ve done that hundreds of times with sheep, but pigs are a little different.”
No dice. Nature was not about to co-operate.
So drastic measures were called for. While the military planes are the customary supply chain for Falklands supplies, they are not permitted to carry livestock. So Farmer Short had a long chat with Chiltern Air Freight back in old Blighty .
“Thankfully they agreed,” Farmer Short told the BBC, ” although they’d never sent anything like a pig to the Falklands before.”
And when piglets arrive in a tiny close-knit English community like The Falklands, news is bound to spread.
“”There was quite a welcome waiting for them,” Farmer Short observed.
And so: a happy ending. The piggy gene pool of the island community is safe and sound.
And no need for any diagrams to show how.