The Most Lavish Dowries In History

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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    Violante Visconti Got Gold And Five Cities When She Married

    Violante Visconti Got Gold And Five Cities When She Married
    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    Edward III of England and his wife, Philippa of Hainault, had several sons, which proved problematic when it came to inheritance and sparked the Wars of the Roses. Their second surviving son, Lionel of Antwerp (he was born in modern Belgium) married twice: first to an Irish noblewoman and then to an Italian princess named Violante Visconti, daughter of the lord of Milan.

    They were married in 1368, when Lionel journeyed to Italy to collect his bride. Her dowry cost Violante's dad two million gold florins, as well as a number of towns, castles, and cities in Italy to go to her and her husband. Their wedding banquet reportedly fed more than 10,000 people. Just five months after their marriage, Lionel died and the English refused to give back much of Violante's dowry, leading to conflict between her family and the English.

  • Mary Tudor, Queen Of France's Dowry Was A Fine Paid To Her Brother
    Photo: Attributed to Jan Gossaert / Wikimedia Commons / 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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    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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    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.

  • Catherine Of Braganza Gave England International Trade Rights
    Photo: Peter Lely / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    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.

  • Eleanor Of Aquitaine Brought Half Of France With Her
    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    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.