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We, the house of Habsburg, are a royal family that descend from the gods. Our founder, Cersei Habsburg, conquered Europe and brought peace and stability to the dregs of the continent. After taking her 3 brothers as husbands she founded the Habsburg dynasty. Our demigod status awards us the power of pyrokinesis and allows us an average lifespan of 500 yrs.

Other demigod families throughout the world demean themselves by frolicking with worthless commoners, inevitably diluting their demigod heritage and weakening their gifts. These unions produce half-breeds weakling creatures of inferior quality in comparison to the purebloods. We however have maintained our respectability be keeping it all in the family. The closer the blood relation, the closer that offspring is in association with its fore-bearers.

The Habsburg family are not ignorant of the dangers of inbreeding. However, we wish to keep our dignity intact instead of associating with lesser humans and allowing their genetic filth to taint our bloodline. Maintaining the upmost purity of our clan is essential to maintaining our demigod powers and our birthright that is Europe. How can we make this possible?

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    $\begingroup$ Just to clarify - is inbreeding crucial to keeping the powers, or is that merely the perception? As in, could you have a child from a non-relative that is a demigod but claim it's from a relative? Or does a child with a non-relative really weaken the powers? $\endgroup$ – VLAZ Jan 23 at 13:14
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    $\begingroup$ As a side-note, this question seems really suited to Crusader Kings 2 where you play dynasties of character in medieval Europe and can arrange marriages even between kin. Which can, naturally, lead to inbred freaks as children. Some game mechanics even encourage inbreeding - some religions view such marriages in high regard. So, you really get into a situation where you probably should be marrying siblings but that also in the long term can lead to a ticking genetic bomb for your family. So you need to try and prevent it. $\endgroup$ – VLAZ Jan 23 at 13:23
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    $\begingroup$ If they were to breed with a different demigod clain, sired from a different god, what happens with the children? Does he still reap the same benefits as if sired by two demigods sired from the same god? $\endgroup$ – dsollen Jan 23 at 15:16
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    $\begingroup$ In Time Enough for Love, a foundation is setup to do exactly this although they were only breeding for longevity, not pyrokinesis. It's a sci-fi story, though, so they do it through genetic testing to identify compatible pairs. Anyone that breeds with a compatible mate is rewarded financially from the foundation's considerable trust. Anyone who doesn't is cut off and no longer considered part of the clan. $\endgroup$ – Engineer Toast Jan 23 at 20:40
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    $\begingroup$ The question is, if you breed two demigods from different lines, do you get 25% squib, 50% demigod, 25% full god? $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Jan 24 at 14:04
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I feel I should add as a disclaimer that I have moral objections to much of this answer - however morality aside it is a practical solution.

Eugenics.

Should a pairing produce an undesirable child, sterilize it. (Back in the day they would often just kill the child, sterilization achieves the same result genetically speaking though).

Should the same pairing produce a second undesirable child sterilize it force the parents to divorce and form new marriages.

Should the same person produce undesirable children on a second marriage sterilize them.

Basically it's Selective Breeding but with people, so long as you are ruthless enough you can cull bad recessive genes and mutations out of the herd even while inbreeding.

Look into how farmers manage and breed livestock for inspiration. In particular inbreeding.

Inbreeding is a technique used in selective breeding. For example, in livestock breeding, breeders may use inbreeding when trying to establish a new and desirable trait in the stock and for producing distinct families within a breed, but will need to watch for undesirable characteristics in offspring, which can then be eliminated through further selective breeding or culling. Inbreeding also helps to ascertain the type of gene action affecting a trait. Inbreeding is also used to reveal deleterious recessive alleles, which can then be eliminated through assortative breeding or through culling.

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  • $\begingroup$ Note that sterilization is not only unnecessary, but can be counterproductive. The result of a single offspring is not necessarily an indication of some "inferior blood". Take, for example, sickle cell anemia resistance, assuming each parent carries a single copy of the necessary gene. Of 4 children, one will have no resistance (and will die young), and one will have two copies (and will die young), The two heterozygotes, though will get one copy each,and will have substantial resistance. It all depends on the genetic mechanism involved. $\endgroup$ – WhatRoughBeast Jan 23 at 20:51
  • $\begingroup$ @WhatRoughBeast Sure, I simplified. As described it is crude but will over time reduce the prevalence of bad recessive genes throughout the bred population by more aggressively culling than nature can provide in humans. $\endgroup$ – Tim B Jan 23 at 20:56
  • $\begingroup$ Sickle cell is an interesting case as it provides advantages in 50% of cases and disadvantage in 25%, this is too crude to detect that but to my knowledge that's not a common scenario that applies to many genes. $\endgroup$ – Tim B Jan 23 at 21:02
  • $\begingroup$ Actually, it provides disadvantage in 50% of cases in malarial areas, but (of course) that's better than 0%. As to "common scenario", what exactly is the proposed genetics of pyrokinesis and 500 year lifespans? $\endgroup$ – WhatRoughBeast Jan 23 at 21:07
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Minor nobility

Maintaining a bloodline with a limited pool is going to be tough. The trick is to expand the pool without corrupting the main bloodline. What we're going to do here is to redefine the "demigod" to be more like a breed of dog. It's a new breed if it's breeding true for 3-7 generations (depending who you ask).

To expand the base pool we're actually going to encourage the young males to sow some wild oats among the local population. These hemi-demigods and their children will be monitored by the administrators of the house via the usual channels of birth and marriage records. Elevating their status to that of minor nobility allows greater control and monitoring of their breeding. The high risk nature of maternity through most of history means this recreation will be denied to the females, they must only breed within the main bloodline.

Reproduction within the hemi-demigod and semi-hemi-demigod local populations will throw up the occasional true demigod, these should be encouraged to meet through appropriate social events. Should they breed true over a number of generations, their scions will be permitted to breed back into the main bloodline to expand the genetic pool.

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    $\begingroup$ Technically, this is called outcrossing followed by inbreeding. It's a common technique among animal breeders. For best results it does require good record-keeping, which would be problem if the approach is the informal "sow wild oats". In effect, the emphasis must shift from the royal family to the royal clan. $\endgroup$ – WhatRoughBeast Jan 23 at 21:14
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    $\begingroup$ @WhatRoughBeast, ideally the young men should be keeping track of where oats have been sown, especially among the minor nobility. There may be a lot of Fitzhabsburgs about the place, but that's just a way of keeping track. Since we're looking for traits of long life and a tendency to set things on fire, known ancestry is less important than effect of ancestry, adoption into suitable family can be arranged for obvious byblows. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Jan 24 at 10:12
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Adoption

You mention:

"Other demigod families throughout the world demean themselves by frolicking with commoners, inevitably diluting their demigod heritage and weakening their gifts."

This would indicate that there are other familial lines presumably of different genetic stock that also spout from the gods and should have similar gifts. If this is the case then you have a god-like genetic pool to pull from. You don't mention if these other families have same genetic gifts as the Habsburgs (pyrokenisis and long life span) or different gifts (flight? strength? other powers?). If this is the case then I would recommend to do what the great Roman families of old did...adoption into the line and then marrying them into the family. Many of the first Roman emperors were not direct blood relatives of the prior emperor and were often from different and competing great houses of the day. By adopting in the rivals it kept the noble bloodlines pure while still providing genetic parity.

Doing this has added benefits

  1. Allowing the offspring of their unions to perhaps inherit multiple gifts and increasing the relative strength of the Habsburg line opposite their rivals.

  2. Politically tying the other competing houses to the Habsburgs. The Julians and Claudians were tied together in this way. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julio-Claudian_dynasty

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Dear Patriarch or Matriarch of the Habsburg family,

Do as you always did: "tu felix austria nube", but try to get some more distant relatives from your big and widespread family clan having children with. Always remember to stay fidel to your partner to keep the line as tractable and pure as possible, such that the distance of relation within the family tree can be reliably determined.

Additionally, marry one of the children to some your lesser peers from time to time. The demigod families even of tainted bloodlines are still demi-godly and help restore the genetic pool from time to time which will definitely be valuable for the next generations of your great and powerful house to be able to maintain their marriage politics.

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In Vitro fertilization

Have a team of meisters doctors surgically extract all of Cersei's eggs and fertilize them with Jaime's, Tyrion's and the unnamed brother's sperm. Use genetic sequencing to find out which eggs are bad and discard those. Freeze the rest and pick them for impregnation as required.

This should grant you enough frozen embryos to last for thousands of generations.

By the way, if you can find the genes for mindless cruelty or pushovery, please cull the embryos with those too. Joffrey was a failure, and Tommen even more so.

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    $\begingroup$ Best answer in my opinion. I'll offer one twist. Why not just clone Cersei herself and implant. $\endgroup$ – JonSG Jan 23 at 21:17
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You seem suggesting that the trait you want to preserve is genetically transmitted. Therefore I can think of two parallel approaches:

  1. Breed, ahem, arrange marriages with other demigods of proven lineage. That would add some fresh genes to the pool.
  2. If you happen to find, among the mass of the commoners, some individual bearing the traits of the demigods (random mutation, you know?), elevate him or her to the appropriate level and pull his/her genes into the pool.

For both approaches you can task an ad-hoc organization, which will search and investigate the lineage and the manifestations of the demigod traits, with the major purpose of keeping the lineage pure and holy.

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If the Habsburgs are descended from gods but are still mortal then that means somewhere in their history a god must have frolicked with a mortal to produce the first of the Habsburgs. All of the undesirable recessive genes must have come from that mortal. So just embark on an eugenics program to identify the male and female breeders with the least traces of undesirable recessive genes, and allow only them to breed. This rule must extend to the royal families as well. The rest of the Habsburgs can still satisfy their urges with their family members or outsiders by using condoms or elixirs of spermicides.

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Outcrosses, as in Charlie Stross' Merchant Princes series*.

Those directly in line of succession should marry other full-power members of the family. Their younger siblings should be married to people outside the family. Then the nephews and nieces, each hemi-demi-gods, can be married back into the family, with their descendants being on average hemi-demi-gods, but some of them being more powerful. Those are the ones you marry to the next-but-one generation of heirs.

*in which it's a recessive gene being preserved, but if your fictional world has blended inheritance, the process should still work.

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