From Incestuous Relationships to Strategic Alliances: The Evolution of The Rich and Powerful

In a time long ago, the halls of power were filled with whispered rumors of secret marriages and scandalous affairs between family members. The rich and powerful were known to keep their bloodlines pure by marrying within their own kin, all in the name of maintaining their grip on power. 

There have been many powerful families, throughout history who married family members to consolidate power and maintain their wealth and influence. 

  1. The Habsburgs: A powerful European dynasty that ruled over much of Europe for several centuries. They practiced consanguineous marriage, which means they married within the family to maintain power and wealth. This led to a high degree of inbreeding, which caused genetic problems and ultimately contributed to their decline.
  2. The Medicis: A wealthy and influential family that ruled over Florence, Italy, during the Renaissance. They often married family members to maintain their power and wealth. For example, Lorenzo de’ Medici, also known as “Lorenzo the Magnificent,” married Clarice Orsini, who was his second cousin.
  3. The Ptolemies: A dynasty that ruled over ancient Egypt for almost 300 years. They practiced consanguineous marriage to maintain their power and control over Egypt. For example, Cleopatra, the last Ptolemaic ruler, married her brother, Ptolemy XIII.
  4. The Tudors: A powerful English dynasty that ruled from 1485 to 1603. They often married within the family to maintain their power and wealth. For example, King Henry VIII married his brother’s widow, Catherine of Aragon, and later went on to marry Anne Boleyn, who was his second cousin.

It’s worth noting that while consanguineous marriage was more common in the past, and is generally frowned upon today, it is not entirely uncommon for some wealthy families to still practice marriages between close relatives, although such information is generally kept private and is not publicly disclosed. 

Times have changed, and the rules of the game have shifted. Nowadays, it’s possible to stay on top without resorting to such unsavory practices. There are endless ways that wealthy and powerful families can hold on to their fortunes without resorting to marrying family members:

  1. Estate Planning and Trusts: Wealthy families can use estate planning and trusts to transfer their assets to future generations while minimizing the impact of taxes and other costs. This can help to ensure that their wealth stays within the family.
  2. Investments: Many wealthy families invest their wealth in a variety of assets, such as real estate, stocks, and private equity. By diversifying their investments, they can protect their wealth from market fluctuations and other risks.
  3. Philanthropy: Wealthy families can use their wealth to support charitable causes, which can help to build a positive reputation and create a legacy for future generations.
  4. Family Offices: Many wealthy families establish family offices to manage their assets and investments. These offices can help to ensure that the family’s wealth is managed effectively and that the family’s financial interests are protected.
  5. Education and Training: Investing in the education and training of their children and future generations helps them develop the skills and knowledge necessary for ongoing generations to manage and grow their wealth.

So by diversifying their investments, planning their estates, supporting philanthropic causes, establishing family offices, and investing in education and training, the wealthy ensure that their wealth remains within the family for generations to come. But for some, it doesn’t stop at wealth.

Many wealthy families around the world not only have strong political ties, but some of these families are also well-known for their influence on politics, including:

  1. The Rothschild Family: This European family has a long history of political influence and wealth. They are known for their success in banking and finance and have been involved in politics for generations.
  2. The Bush Family: This American family is well-known for their political influence, with several members having served as presidents, governors, or other high-ranking officials.
  3. The Kennedy Family: This American family has been involved in politics for generations, with several members serving in high-ranking government positions. They are also known for their wealth and philanthropic activities.
  4. The Saud Family: This Saudi Arabian family has significant political influence due to their control of the country’s oil wealth. The family has been ruling the country for over a century and has strong ties with many governments around the world.
  5. The Murdoch Family: This Australian family is known for their control of a media empire that spans the globe. They have been involved in politics and have been known to use their media outlets to influence public opinion.

There are many wealthy people today who came from humble beginnings, showing that success can come from hard work, determination, and perseverance:

  1. Oprah Winfrey: Oprah was born into poverty in rural Mississippi and was raised by her grandmother. She went on to become one of the most successful talk show hosts in history, as well as a media mogul and philanthropist, with a net worth of over $2 billion.
  2. Jeff Bezos: Bezos grew up in a middle-class family in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He went on to found Amazon, which has made him one of the wealthiest people in the world, with a net worth of over $180 billion.
  3. Howard Schultz: Schultz grew up in a housing complex for low-income families in Brooklyn, New York. He went on to become the CEO of Starbucks and is now worth over $4 billion.
  4. Ursula Burns: Burns grew up in a housing project on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. She went on to become the CEO of Xerox and was the first African American woman to head a Fortune 500 company.
  5. Ralph Lauren: Lauren grew up in the Bronx, New York, and worked as a salesman before starting his own fashion company. He is now worth over $7 billion.
  6. Richard Branson: Branson grew up in a middle-class family in London, England. He went on to found the Virgin Group, which includes over 400 companies and is now worth over $5 billion.
  7. JK Rowling: Rowling was a struggling single mother living on welfare in Edinburgh, Scotland when she wrote the first Harry Potter book. She went on to become one of the most successful authors in history, with a net worth of over $1 billion.

But make no mistake, their humble beginnings have not stopped wealthy figures such as Jeff Bezos have political clout, primarily due to their financial resources and ability to influence public opinion through their business ventures. While Bezos himself may not hold an elected office or be directly involved in political decision-making, his vast wealth and influence as the founder and former CEO of Amazon have given him significant political power.

Bezos has exercised his political clout through lobbying efforts. Amazon has spent millions of dollars on lobbying in Washington, D.C., on issues such as taxes, trade, and data privacy. This kind of influence can shape public policy in ways that benefit Amazon and other companies in which Bezos has a stake.

Additionally, Bezos has used his wealth to support political causes and candidates. He has donated millions of dollars to political campaigns and causes, including the Biden-Harris campaign in 2020. This kind of financial support can be critical to the success of political candidates and parties, and can also help shape the political agenda.

Bezos has the ability to shape public opinion through his media ownership. Amazon owns The Washington Post, which is one of the most influential newspapers in the United States. The newspaper’s reporting and editorial positions can have a significant impact on public opinion and political discourse.

Oprah Winfrey has significant political clout and influence, primarily due to her vast wealth, media empire, and philanthropic activities. Although Oprah has not held any elected office or been directly involved in politics, her endorsement of political candidates has been highly sought after. She endorsed and campaigned for Barack Obama in his 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns, and her endorsement is believed to have helped him win the Democratic nomination in 2008. 

Oprah also endorsed Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams in 2018, and her endorsement was seen as a key factor in the election. Oprah’s media empire, including her talk show, magazine, and media network, has given her a significant platform to shape public opinion and promote social and political causes. She has used her platform to address issues such as education, poverty, and civil rights, and has interviewed numerous political figures and world leaders, including Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama.

Finally, Oprah’s philanthropic activities have given her significant influence in the nonprofit sector and on social and political issues. She has donated millions of dollars to charitable causes, including education and healthcare, and has established several foundations and initiatives to support these causes.

Whereas in the past wealthy families were regionally focused, with their political influence largely limited to their home countries, today’s wealthy families have a more global outlook, with business interests and political ties spanning multiple countries and continents.

Another major difference is the increased visibility of wealthy families and their political activities. Thanks to social media and 24-hour news coverage, the public is more aware than ever of the political activities of wealthy families. This increased scrutiny can both enhance and constrain their political influence, as public opinion can be a powerful force in shaping political outcomes.

There is a growing awareness of the need for transparency and accountability in political activities. Wealthy families with political influence are now subject to greater public scrutiny and regulations, which can help ensure that their activities are above board and in the best interests of society as a whole, or so we would hope.

From ancient times to the modern era, wealthy families have played a critical role in shaping political power structures and decision-making processes. While incestuous relationships were once the norm, today we see more strategic alliances formed between families for political gain. It will be interesting to see how this dynamic will evolve and shape our political landscape in the years to come.

Published by Maddalena Di Gregorio

“I kept always two books in my pocket, one to read, one to write in” Robert L. Stevenson

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