How much will your bride bring with her on her wedding day? Well, these days, that doesn`t really matter, but the case was very different throughout the world until sometime in the 20th century. Dowry is one of the few aspects of marriage that have been wiped away by modernization as more people accept that love and mutual consent are all they need to get married. Families were ready to go to the extremes (like these ten Bridezilla’s) just to express their commitment to the union, and sometimes, the price was just outrageous.
The whole of Bombay and Tangier
The marriage between Catherine, Princess of Portugal, and Charles II of England in 1662 was meant to Legitimize Charles`s position in England as a king and get a strong alliance to legitimize Portugal as a legal state in Europe. Portugal had been under Spanish control for many years, and King John IV of Portugal, Catherine`s father, wanted a strong alliance. England, on the other hand, was an impoverished nation just surviving from a long civil war and republican control, which is why they needed more wealth to the crown, the very thing Portugal was offering as dowry.
Catherine brought with her the whole of Bombay and Tangier, putting the two rich cities under English control. In addition, she paid gold worth over $500,000 in today`s value plus trading rights for England with all Portuguese colonies worldwide. These were docking rights for British ships all the way from Brazil to Morocco. She was, however, unable to give an heir to King Charles and also had a tough time at court with King Charles II`s many mistresses.
The Bride`s weight in soap
Now, don`t laugh just yet. Soap was a highly valued product in the 1800s. Besides, what do you expect when you marry a hairdresser`s daughter? This is what happened when Le Blanc proposed marriage to a Persian man`s fair daughter. When the young man said he did not want to receive the regular gifts given at weddings as dowry, the father decided to go a step further.
He provided a hefty sum of money as his daughter`s first dowry. Before the wedding day, he weighed his daughter, who was about 140 pounds, then bought the best toilet soap equal to her weight to accompany the bride on her wedding. The couple probably had no need for soap for a very long time after their wedding thanks to this generous dowry.
The bride`s weight in Chocolate
When you know your dad or uncle will give you your weight in chocolate or money as your dowry, you would probably want to put on a few extra pounds before your wedding day. This was the gift given to Marie Brie in the 19th century by her uncle, who was a confectioner from Marseilles, Peru. He asked for his niece`s weight to be taken on the day of marriage then arranged for a matching weight in boxes of chocolate to be delivered to her husband as the dowry. This was probably a gesture of just how sweet he expected their marriage to be.
More than 1/3 of France
Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, once queen of France and later queen of England, is one of the greatest women in history. She was the sole heir of Aquitaine after her father`s death. She was forced into marriage to King Louis VII thanks to his father, who was also Eleanor`s guardian after her father`s death. She brought the whole of Aquitaine with her as a dowry to King Louis VII increasing the reach of the French kingdom immensely because her lands were huge and fertile.
She got estranged with Louis VII and sought an annulment but was denied by the pope until she later figured out a plot to leave King Louis in an agreement that meant leaving her two daughters in France with the King and keeping her lands. She went ahead to marry Henry duke of Normandy, who later became King Henry II of France, bringing her lands with her for a second time as a dowry. She went down in history as one of the greatest independent women that determined the fate of two great nations.
200 Foreskins of Philistine men
If you are a bible reader, you have probably read the story of David and Saul, the king of Israel. After killing Goliath, David became a famous man in Israel, and with his fame, came a relationship with Michal, daughter of Saul. The king was wary of David`s increasing fame, so, in a bid to prevent the marriage, the king asked for an impossible dowry, 100 foreskins from Philistines.
It is hard to explain how they would verify that the skins were from Philistines and not any other group of men, but then, it was a dowry and so it had to be paid. To prove just what a fighter he was, David went ahead and delivered double the number of foreskins requested. Beaten to his own game, King Saul gave his daughter to the former herdsman, who later became one of the greatest Kings in the history of Israel.
The marriage of Marie Chantal Miller, the daughter of the American billionaire Robert Miller to the exiled Prince Pavlos of Greece, went down as one of the greatest weddings of the modern era. The marriage started with a royal reception of more than 1300 guests where a pearl-encrusted wedding dress costing over $200,000 was presented to the bride. The bride was already rich, owning a famous line of children`s wear shops in Spain, France, the UK, and the US. To boost her net worth, her father decided to gift her an extra $200 million as dowry as American money was bound to Greek Royalty.
Five Italian Cities and castles plus 2M gold florins
During the war of Roses, English lords were seeking alliances abroad, so King Edward III decided to seek alignment to a powerful house in Milan, which would have promised some control over Northern Italy. He decided to marry his second son Lionel of Antwerp, to Violante Visconti, the daughter of Lord Visconti of Milan. This marriage was not known by many since the pope refused to support it, but it brought great riches to England.
As a dowry to her royal husband, Violante`s father lavished the prince with several towns and cities in Northern Italy under his control. He also gave him an estimated 2 million gold Florins worth of gifts and money as dowry. Lionel, however, died just five months after this wedding in an alleged papal assassination. The English instead blamed the Milanians for the death and refused to give back the dowry.
$2 million and a fertility test
Now it is not every day that a Hollywood actress becomes the princess of Monaco, so Mary Kelly was making history when she gave up her acting career to marry Prince Rainier III of Monaco. The royal coffers were nearly empty after the second world war and marrying the prince was not really a promise of much wealth, but the royal procedure had to be followed to the latter.
Mary Kelly, one of the greatest Hollywood actresses of all time, had to give up her acting career since “princesses don`t act films, right?” well, at least that was the case in the 60s. Their wedding went down as one of the most viewed events of the 20th century. What the public didn`t know is that Mary had to be able to bear children, and her father had to pay $2 million to the royal family as dowry before the wedding could happen.
$150 million in gold, money, and gifts
Wu Duanbiao is the chairman of Fujian Wanli ceramics, one of the largest ceramic tile companies in China. Many billionaires in Fujian are known to compete in lavishing their daughters with giant dowries, but none has beat Wu yet. His daughter Wu got married to her childhood lover in 2013 at a lavish eight-day wedding. Wu gave the couple a Porsche and Mercedes lined with red ribbons before adding them four boxes filled with golden jewellery.
He went ahead to give them shares in his company worth over $10 million-plus several estates. In total, the dowry was estimated to be worth anywhere between $150 and $200 million. The locals said the bridegroom might well have robbed a bank because the bride`s dowry was just too large.
Princess Anne of Denmark was not the most famous royal in Britain because she had no favour with her husband, James VI of Scotland, who later became King James I of England. What most people don`t know is that Anne sealed the transfer of the Orkney and Shetland Isles to the British. The Isles had earlier been given by the Danish as dowry for Margaret when she married James III in 1469.
The Danish had never kept this promise, which is why the Scots had done everything to secure this huge dowry. In addition to these Islands, Anne brought with her a huge sum of gold plus hundreds of thousands of pounds. Anne`s love for fun and lavish partying, however, led to her fallout with the young king, although the British got to retain the dowry at last.