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The Most Lavish Dowries In History

Updated December 4, 2019 2.9k votes 509 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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    Modern-Day Princess Marie-Chantal Miller Got $200 Million From Her Dad

    As daughter of luxury goods billionaire Robert Miller, Marie-Chantal Miller was already rich, but she got more so by marrying a prince in exile. That man was Pavlos, Crown Prince of Greece, son of the ousted King Constantine and Queen Sophia. Marie-Chantal wasn't royal, but she was super rich and hobnobbed with the highest society worldwide, so this match was a no-brainer. 

    When Pavlos and Marie-Chantal married in 1995, she got a $200 million dowry from her dad, just like her two sisters Alexandra (who married a German prince) and Pia (who wed a Getty heir). The Miller family also hosted a giant pre-wedding reception for their little girl, which involved 1,300 guests. The royal wedding reception itself involved a tent shaped like the Acropolis, and the bride's pearl-encrusted wedding dress reportedly cost more than $200,000.

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  • Mary Tudor, Queen Of France's Dowry Was A Fine Paid To Her Brother
    Photo: Metaweb (FB) / Public domain

    Henry VIII's sister Mary Tudor's dowry can really best be understood as more of a fine than a gift. After her marriage to France's King Louis XII ended as a result of his demise, Mary Tudor did the unthinkable: she married a man named Charles Brandon for love, and she did so without asking her brother's permission. When Henry VIII found out about the clandestine nuptials, he was furious, and he levied a fine against his sister that roughly corresponded to the dowry from her first marriage plus interest.

    Henry VIII required the couple to return all of the dowry from Mary's first marriage, and he took the famous Mirror of Naples jewel from them. Henry also required the couple to pay a fine of £24,000 (£11,610,000 today) in yearly instalments of £1,000 (£484,000). 

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  • The Portuguese Princess Catherine of Braganza brought quite the dowry with her when she was engaged to marry King Charles II of England and Scotland. Not only did she allegedly introduce forks and oranges to the Brits, but she also brought $500,000 and a few major ports – Tangier, Mumbai, and Morocco – under British control.

    In case that wasn't enough, she also brought rights to trade with Portuguese colonies all over the world. Sadly, she didn't have any kids that survived with Charles, but England sure benefited.

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  • To Become A Royal, Grace Kelly Had To Take A Fertility Test And Her Dad Had To Pay Up
    Photo: elena-lu / flickr / CC-BY-NC 2.0

    Despite the fact that actress Grace Kelly married into the princely Grimaldi family of Monaco, she was the one who had to bring a royal dowry to the marriage. Her dad was a champion rower, and her mom was the University of Pennsylvania's first-ever female sports coach. But Grace's father also made a ton of money in his brick business, so he was able to fork over $2 million to help pay for his daughter's wedding.

    Grace also had to undergo a fertility test to make sure she would be able to bear heirs to Prince Rainier, since his mistress ex was supposedly barren (although the ex-lover later gave birth to a child).

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