Clara van Spaerwoude is inextricably linked with the history of Delft. She even has a street named after her. Van Spaerwoude was best known for her enormous inheritance, which she distributed in the form of wedding gifts. For more than 300 years after her death, newlywed couples benefited from her largesse.

Mother of the orphanage
As the daughter of a goldsmith, Clara van Spaerwoude was never short of money. But she had a generosity of spirit to match her good fortune. From 1578 to 1579 Van Spaerwoude took care of the impoverished monks, and in 1578 and from 1581 to 1590, she was the house mother of Delft's girls' orphanage. She also gave to a range of other charities.

Wedding gifts
In 1556 Clara van Spaerwoude married Arent van der Meer, the son of the mayor. The couple had no children, which is perhaps why her will stated that her fortune should be distributed in the form of wedding gifts for ‘pious and honest boys and girls of my descendants'.

Half a million guilders
After her death, descendants of Clara van Spaerwoude each received around 300 guilders when they married. The sum kept decreasing, until it dwindled to about the equivalent of 11.35 euros in 1922. At that point, the minister decided to close the fund. The remaining capital - around half a million guilders - was divided amongst the poorest of her descendants. Today, a beautiful epitaph in the Old Church serves as a reminder of the generosity of Clara van Spaerwoude.

 

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