In 1475 Duke Georg of Bayern-Landshut married Hedwig (Polish: Jadwiga), daughter of Casimir IV Jagiellon, King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania, at an extraordinarily extravagant and well-documented ceremony at Landshut in Lower Bavaria. The names of the guests — and other fascinating details of this huge event — have been preserved in a number of contemporary manuscripts, several of which are now kept in the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek. The town of Landshut commemorates the wedding by reenacting it every four years, and has done so since the early twentieth century. The next reenactment is scheduled for 2021.
Why is this of interest to historians of Indonesia? Well, among the victuals provided to the Landshut wedding guests in 1475 were enormous quantities of Indonesian spices.
Figure 1 above is taken from Cgm 331, one of the now-digitised manuscripts in Munich recounting the events of the Landshuter Hochzeit. It says that 105 pounds (ain Zentner v lb) of cloves (Nägell, originally meaning ‘nail’) and 85 pounds of mace (muschatplüee, literally ‘muscat flowers’) were bought for the wedding, costing 120 Rhenisch guilders in total. Apparently the dowry alone was around 32,000 guilders, so this really isn’t so much money. The amounts here are huge, though, at least in culinary terms; a couple of cloves can easily overpower a dish, and when dry they weigh very little. Thousands and thousands of cloves were consumed just at this one wedding (1), and the dishes they flavoured were presumably eaten by all the guests — who came from all classes of society. This is not simply a case of consumption of foreign luxuries by elites.