Famous Marriages Karl Marx and Jenny von Westphalen Part 3

About the marriage between Communist Manifesto author Karl Marx and Jenny von Westphalen, history of the proposal and wedding.


Karl Marx and Jenny von Westphalen

Proposal: No record exists of an actual proposal to Jenny. The engagement had simply been taken for granted. Marx, soon to leave Germany to start a new publication in Paris, was determined to take Jenny with him. "I can assure you without any romanticism," he wrote to a friend, "that I am head over heels in love, and entirely serious." But with the old baron gone, the Von Westphalen family was more of an obstacle than ever. Jenny's half brother Ferdinand, now the head of the family, was an important figure in Prussian political life; was he really to allow his sister, still beautiful at 29, to marry this atheistic, nonconformist Jew, so noticeably lacking in aristocratic manners, who neither professed any loyalty to the Prussian crown nor showed any evidence of being able to earn a living?

But the long separation had only intensified Jenny's devotion, which had, in fact, become almost a religious conviction. "I think thou hast never been dearer, nor sweeter, nor more loving, and at thy going, I was in a state of rapture," she wrote to her "Karlchen." She would protect him, provide for him, defend him against the army of her relatives. At her age she needed no one's permission to marry. Persuading Ferdinand was a lost cause, but in the end her mother faced the inevitable and retreated with dignity. The banns were published, announcing the imminent marriage of "Herr Karl Marx, doctor of philosophy, residing in Cologne, and of Fraulein Johanna Bertha Julie Jenny von Westphalen, no occupation, residing in Kreuznach."

Wedding: The wedding, so long delayed, finally took place in the Protestant church at Kreuznach on June 19, 1843. It was a small affair, boycotted by all the Von Westphalens except for Jenny's mother and brother Edgar. None of the surviving Marxes were there. Unfortunately, no contemporary account of the wedding exists.

Apparently Marx's radicalism did not extend to his honeymoon. He and Jenny took the conventional route--a trip to Rhinepfalz ("Falls of the Rhine") in Switzerland, Germany's version of Niagara Falls. One can imagine them walking hand in hand along the narrow gallery jutting out over the foaming waterfall. They returned to Kreuznach by slow stages. Jenny's mother had given them a sufficient amount of cash to cover the honeymoon expenses, carefully secured in a double-handled strongbox. But whatever hotel they stayed in, they left the strongbox open on the table so that those poorer than they could dip in at will. As Jenny reported later, they were too happy to care where the money went.

The rest of the honeymoon was spent at Jenny's mother's house in Kreuznach. Marx settled down to work on the essays with which he was to start the new Paris publication. For five long happy months they had peace and quiet, and all their needs were provided for. As he prepared for their departure for Paris, Marx asked his friend and colleague Bruno Bauer whether he felt Jenny would be able to endure the privations of the revolutionary life ahead of them. Bauer, an astute man, had already taken Jenny's measure. "Your bride is quite capable of enduring everything by your side," he replied. Then after a pause he mused prophetically, "But who knows what will happen?"

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