Friday, 27 December 2013

The Price of a Royal Bride

In the 18th century the tradition of a dowry had already existed for centuries. It was custom that the bride's family would sent large sums of money to the groom or his family; the tradition was based on the fact that a woman was not supposed to work and therefore could not contribute to the total income of her new household. So the money paid was originally intended as payment for the expenses a wife brought with her. But the 18th century was the century of extravagance and the dowries had never been bigger - it had become a symbol of wealth to give a female relative as large a dowry as possible. Dowries were not just money but could also consist of land, jewels, plates, furnitures and so on.
This post looks further into what the foreign brides brought with them to the French court during l'ancien régieme.
NOTE: the following amounts vary in currency and it is important to remember that they were given at different points in history so the economy was probably not the same in all cases.

Marie Thérèse of Spain married Louis XIV in 1660 and came with a promised dowry of 500.000 écus. However, Spain was in financial difficulties due to continuous warfare and the full dowry was never paid.

Marie Antoinette of Austria married Louis XVI in 1770. Her family had provided her with a dowry of 200.000 crowns which was considered to be a very small dowry for an Archduchess but in this case the bride's family paid for her entire wedding trousseau. 

Henrietta of England was married to Philippe, Duke d'Orléans with a promised dowry of 840.000 livres in 1661.

And for the others?

Louise Marie Adélaïde de Bourbon-Penthièvre brought a dowry of a staggering 6.000.000 livres to her wedding to Louis Philippe Joseph d'Orlèans as well as an annual income of 240.000!

Marie Anne de Bourbon (legitimized daughter of Louis XIV and Louise de La Vallière) was given 1.000.000 livres for her wedding to Louis Armand de Bourbon, Prince de Conti.


  1. It's my understanding that Marie Leszczyńska, wife of Louis XV, had almost no dowry at all. Possibly the fact that she was able to provide the king with children was considered more important.

    1. Indeed, she had no dowry (or at least none that can be compared at all with the others) since her father was no longer King of Poland