Theme #4: Wealth

Theme #4: Wealth

In this excerpt from her memoir, Glückel describes her daughter’s marriage and the exchange and display of wealth that it occasioned. She describes the dowry, travel for the wedding, the noble guests who attended the wedding, and the lavish food and entertainment.

My husband concluded the match of our daughter to the rich Elias Cleve, and settled on a dowry of 2200 Reichsthalers in Dutch money.  They set the wedding for a year and a half later in the town of Cleves.  My husband agreed to also pay 100 Reichsthalers towards the wedding expenses.

When time for the wedding drew near, I with my infant baby, my husband, and daughter Zipporah the bride, our Rabbi Meir, who is now the rabbi of Friedberg, a maidservant and our servant Elegant Sam (we call him that because we used to have another servant named Sam who was clumsy).

We sailed from Altona...I cannot begin to tell what a merry voyage it was.  After a happy and delightful trip we arrived safely in Amsterdam several weeks before the wedding.

Fourteen days before the marriage we set forth from Amsterdam “with timbrels and dances” with a party of 20 people to Cleves, where we were welcomed with honors.  We found ourselves in a house that was truly a king’s palace, magnificently furnished in every way.  The livelong day we had no rest from the elegant lords and ladies who came to take a peek at the my beautiful and exquisite Bride. 

Then came the great preparation for the wedding.  At that time, Prince Frederick was in Cleves, and was just a young boy of 13 (later in life through the death of his older brother Prince Elector Karl, he will eventually become the first King of Prussia 1701).  Prince Maurice of Nassau and other titled personages and great lords were likewise in Cleves, and they all signified their desire to witness the wedding.

Naturally, Elias Cleve, the father of the groom, made fitting preparations for such notable guests.  On the marriage day, immediately after the wedding, there was a spread of lavish sweetmeats and fine imported wines and fruits.  You can picture the bustle and excitement, and how Elias Cleve and his people set themselves to wait upon and cater to their distinguished company.  There was not even time to deliver and count over the dowries, as is customary….

After the ceremony, all the distinguished guests were ushered into Elias Cleve’s enormous salon with its walls of leather tooled in gold.  There stood the mighty table laden with dainties fit for a king.  The company was served according to their rank.  My son Mordechai was five years old, and there was not a more handsome boy in the world.  We dressed him in the neatest and best.  All the nobility wanted to eat him up on the spot, and the Prince in particular, never let go of his hand!

When the guests of honor had finished eating and the table was cleared and removed, there appeared masked performers who bowed prettily and performed all manner of entertaining pranks….

A number of prominent Sephardim, likewise, attended the wedding, among them one Mocatta, a jeweller, who wore a beautiful small gold watch set with diamonds and worth no less than 500 Reichsthalers…..

As it was, the young Prince and Prince Maurice and all the noble-born guests departed in great content, and never a Jew received such high honor in a hundred years.  And the wedding was brought to a happy end. (p.96-99)

Questions to Ponder:

  1. What was unique about the wedding of Glückel’s daughter?  What indicates that it was a lavish wedding?
  2. Why do you think Glückel concludes her description of the wedding with the phrase, “Never a Jew received such a high honor in a hundred years”? What does that tell you about the status of Jews? About Glückel’s own pride or boastfulness?

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Theme #4: Wealth." (Viewed on May 18, 2024) <http://jwa.org/node/24960>.