It was once common practice, but marrying your cousin has fallen out of fashion in recent times – thankfully, some would say.
However, an anonymous man, who is having a secret love affair with his cousin, has written to The Sun’s advice column, Dear Deidre, saying he’s fallen in love with his second cousin but fears his daughter won’t approve.
The 51-year-old man revealed he’s been secretly sleeping with his 36-year-old cousin, adding: “I feel like a man who’s had 20 years knocked off his age.”
The pair hit it off at a family birthday two months ago, he said. “I am divorced and was quite happily ticking along as a single guy but now I can’t get her out of my head. My cousin’s daughter has told me she loves me and has done for many years.”
He said his brother “doesn’t see a problem”, but part of him thinks it might be illegal. “My daughter has guessed I have a woman in my life and is dying to meet her. How can I tell her she is right, but that it is my second cousin?”
Although it may not be palatable for some, according to the Australian Marriage Act of 1961, it’s legal to marry your first cousin in most Australian states. You can also marry your niece or nephew or your aunt or uncle.
It’s also legal in the UK for first cousins to marry, however there have been calls to ban the practice. Rules differ in the US, where only half of the country allows inter-family marriages. Most states allow first-cousin marriages only if there will be no offspring from those marriages, while second cousins are legally allowed to marry in every state.
First-cousin marriages were once common around the world, especially among aristocrats and royal families, who wanted to uphold a certain standard of breeding and wealth. Queen Victoria, married her first cousin Prince Albert in 1840 to maintain a royal lineage, and it’s a well-known fact that the reigning Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip are third cousins.
One of the biggest concerns for inter-family marriages is that children born from the relationship will suffer defects. Children of non-related couples have a 2-3 per cent risk of birth defects, while that risk increases to 8 per cent when a child is born from first cousins.