Can Cousins Get Married in Australia?

4 min read
Can Cousins Get Married in Australia?

The worst part of being in love with your cousin, undoubtedly, must be the family reunions. Holding hands with the same person you once shared bathwater with as a toddler, looking at your grandparents for hopeful approval, copping the comments like, “Well, they’re keeping it in the family!”

We balk at the idea of first cousins marrying, but believe it or not, the practice is not as forbidden as you think.

In other parts of the world, marrying your first cousin is socially acceptable; for us in Australia, it’s a bit more taboo. Us Aussies display some sort of inbuilt aversion to such a union. People express disapproval and even revulsion at the prospect of kissing cousins, even when we try and make light of the situation “” everyone has heard of the two-headed Tasmanian.

Did you know there are 32 examples of “forbidden marriages” listed on the Notice of Intended Marriage Certificate? People you are not permitted to marry include: your grandmother or grandfather, your stepmother or stepfather, your sister or brother, your sister’s daughter or sister’s son, your grandson’s civil union partner or granddaughter’s civil union partner, your civil union partner’s granddaughter or grandson, and plenty more.

There are all sorts of convoluted relationships that are officially deemed unacceptable, yet cousins are most definitely not on the list. We think marrying a cousin is a bad idea, because inbreeding can lead to harmful genetic conditions and well, it is just wrong. Isn’t it?

Today in some American states and even New Zealand, if you want to marry your first cousin, you can. Many religious groups don’t forbid it either. Religious scholars have long contended that Mary and Joseph (Jesus’s earthly parents) were first cousins. It has always been legal (and even encouraged) throughout Europe.

Even Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Philip are somewhat close cousins, believe it or not. They are second cousins through King Christian IX of Denmark and third cousins through Queen Victoria.

Now, by this stage your jaw must be on the ground. I mean, who in their right mind would marry their cousin, right? Birth defects being the number one cause for alarm.

Well, a clinical research study found that if you marry your cousin and have children, the risk of birth defects is increased by 6%. This is the same risk factor in women that have children after the age of 40.

And to top this all off, if recent history is correct, some of the more famous cousin marriages have resulted in high-achieving healthy children.

We may laugh all we want, but the truth is in the”¦ er”¦ well, we will let you make your own decision!


Here are some famous celebrities who married their cousin.

  • Albert Einstein second marriage was to his distant cousin, Elsa Lowenthal. Elsa had the surname of Einstein at birth, but lost it when she took the name of her first husband Max Löwenthal, and regained it in 1919 when she married her cousin Albert.
  • The son of the man behind the beloved Winnie the Pooh, Christopher Robin Milne, married his first cousin, Lesley de Selincourt. The pair had never met because their parents were “not on speaking terms”.
  • Charles Darwin, who is best known for his contributions to evolutionary theory, married his first cousin, Emma Wedgwood, as they had grown up together.
  • American Founding Father and the third President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson married his third cousin, Martha Wayles Skelton.
  • Queen Victoria married her first cousin, Prince Albert. She famously wrote in her journal, “Albert is really quite charming, and so extremely handsome”¦”
  • Frank D Roosevelt married his fifth cousin Eleanor after being reacquainted at a dinner at the White House in 1902.
  • Famous Rock n’ Roll musician Jerry Lee Lewis married his cousin Myra, who was only 13 at the time.

About Author

Kate Davies

Senior Journalist & Features Editor. As the modern-day media hunter-gatherer, Journalist Kate Davies is harnessing 10 years in the media to write...Read More engaging and empowering articles for Stay At Home Mum. Her years of experience working in the media both locally and nationally have given her a unique viewpoint and understanding of this dynamic industry. Hailing from a small town in Tasmania and spending many years travelling the world, Kate now calls the Sunshine Coast home alongside her husband and one-year-old son. Read Less

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