Marzipan Diplomacy

Josef Michael Holzapfel according to Quirijn van Brekelenkam. Matchmaking. Early 19th century. Lithuanian National Museum of Art

Today, a box of chocolates or sweets is a pleasant gift, but the feeling cannot be compared to the one experienced in the 16th century when a box of marzipan sweets was a valuable rarity often given to a fiancé during matchmaking.

There is a special story related to marzipan that occured in Vilnius. In the late 16th century, the richest bride of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Sofija Olelkaitė, lived in the Chodkiewicz Palace (Lith. Chodkevičiai). When she was still very young, Jurgis Chodkevičius agreed with Radvila Perkūnas that Sofija would be married to Jonušas Radvilas in exchange for the forgiving of old debts, and Jonušas Radvilas would get a substantial dowry. However, as the wedding approached, the Chodkevičiai family changed their mind and numerous armies of both noblemen arrived to Vilnius. To avoid a civil war, Jonušas Radvila visited Sofija on numerous occasions and gave her boxes of marzipan. The city was laughing at the situation: “all the marzipan in the world couldn’t help.” This saying has survived both Sofija and Jonušas and could be heard even in the early 20th century.

Can marzipan be the reason for the wedding that finally took place? No one knows, though their marriage did not last long, as Sofija died while giving birth.

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