Weird History
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The Most Lavish Dowries In History

Updated December 4, 2019 2.2k votes 413 voters 1.1m views16 items

Throughout history, wealthy people – like many notable kings – had extravagant weddings. For these inestimably costly ceremonies, pre-celebration festivities often included very lavish dowries on behalf of the new brides. Sometimes, these nuptials that involved famous dowries took place between weird royals – like uncles and nieces and already closely related cousins. But who had the biggest dowry in history?

A fair number of medieval and early modern princesses and archduchesses were given lots of land as their dowries, and their husbands wed them for the promise of significant revenue from these properties. Sometimes, these territories were so vast they're nearly unthinkable. For example, Eleanor of Aquitaine brought the rulership of most of southwestern France – her duchy of Aquitaine – to both of her husbands. Anne of Denmark wed Eleanor's descendant, James VI of Scotland/I of England, and brought the Orkney Isles with her. But was this the biggest dowry in the world?

Other wives have brought a ton of cash with them to their newly minted husbands. Modern-day royal Marie-Chantal, Crown Princess of Greece, apparently brought $200 million to her husband, while Portuguese princess Catherine of Braganza gave her spouse, Charles II of England, trading rights all over the world.

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    Catherine Of Aragon's Dowry Lasted Through Two Marriages

    Catherine Of Aragon's Dowry Lasted Through Two Marriages
    Photo: Michael Sittow / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Catherine of Aragon married Arthur Tudor, Prince of Wales, in 1501, bringing with her a sizable dowry of 200,000 escudos. However, Arthur died in 1502, and only half of that bridal money had been paid to the English crown. Normally, it would be considered a bit outré for a king to marry his dead brother's widow - but with the promise of more riches to come, how could Henry VIII resist? The marriage was settled, and Catherine became the first of Henry's many wives.

    Just how much was Catherine's dowry worth? Historians estimate that her fortune would have been worth approximately £100,000 at the time, the equivalent of a whole year's income for the English government. It's difficult to say how that would stack up in terms of modern U.S. dollars, but rest assured, it's enough to comfortably retire on.

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  • Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia Got A Lump Sum And The Jewels Of The Romanovs
    Photo: Metaweb (FB) / Public domain

    The daughter of Russian Emperor Alexander II and his first wife Empress Maria Alexandrovna, Maria Alexandrovna brought a great deal of wealth to her marriage with Queen Victoria's son Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh. Still, despite Maria Alexandrovna's immense wealth, Queen Victoria was not particularly happy with the match, writing that although she blessed their marriage, she did so "with a very heavy heart."

    Regardless of Queen Victoria's feelings on the nuptials, Emperor Alexander II sent his daughter down the aisle and into her new life in style. For her dowry, he gave 100,000 pounds (a massive sum in 1873), and he granted her another 32,000 pounds a year to live on. Not satisfied with just giving his daughter money, Emperor Alexander is also said to have granted her many precious jewels from the Romanov line, including ones worn by Catherine the Great. And he didn't just gift things to his daughter. Alexander named a ship after his new son in law and made him honorary chief of a Russia Guards regiment.

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  • Medieval France wasn't a united country; it was divided into a bunch of individual duchies ruled by independent dukes, over whom the king of France held only nominal power. One such duchy was the wealthy Aquitaine – AKA most of southwestern France – upon which the Capetian dynasty of French kings had often cast covetous eyes. When Duke William X of Aquitaine named his eldest daughter Eleanor as his heiress (and died soon thereafter), King Louis VI (AKA "Louis the Fat") of France quickly snatched her up to marry his son and heir, the eventual Louis VII (who was super-religious, since he grew up in a monastery), in 1137.

    Eleanor united Aquitaine with Louis's territory, which was mostly just located around Paris. They stayed together for some times, but Eleanor was unhappy, and she never gave Louis a son. Once they split in 1152, Louis had to give back Aquitaine, but Eleanor soon married again – to Louis's arch-rival Henry Plantagenet, the Duke of Normandy and later England's King Henry II.

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    More Eleanor of Aquitaine 

    16 Facts That Prove Eleanor of Aquitaine Was Not to Be Messed With#331 of 2,443 The Most Influential People of All Time#109 of 347 The Most Important Leaders In World History

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    Chinese Magnate Wu Duanbiao Gave His Daughter A $150 Million Dowry

    In 2013, Chinese billionaire Wu Duanbiao didn't skimp on his daughter Xu's dowry. In total, her trousseau was valued at over £100 million (which would've been around $155 million at the time). Its contents? A little bit of everything, including luxury cars, bank notes, and tons of real estate ranging from villas to storefronts to mansions.

    The lucky bride's wedding took place over eight days, and her father bestowed the many presents upon her over the course of the celebration. How did this ceramics magnate afford everything? Who knows. His finances were kept private outside of his previous year's salary, which was just £12,000.

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