All Good Things Must Come to an End – Concluding Blog Post

Over the course of this project, my colleagues and I have used George III’s menus as a lens to assess various aspects of the royal court and life in the late eighteenth century. Our work stemmed from transcribing these menus, and as such has allowed us to shed light on unexplored aspects of life in Georgian England. These menus, which offer a daily display of the court’s food, include people of note such as equerries and named servants, which allows for a deeper investigation into George’s court. In using the menus and further resources then, the project’s themes can be analysed and explored, particularly in how they offer an insight into life in the Georgian court and into George III as a person.

A bust of Dr Willis in Greatford, Lincolnshire. By Joseph Nollekens

Inspired by the royal menus, aspects of the Georgian court, such as those staff that accompanied the king to Kew, and Kew Palace itself, have been well explored. For the court, the menus can allow for an insight into some of the main players in George’s life and their interactions with each other and the king. In this, further reading of the diaries of Fanny Burney and writings on Dr Willis offer insights into the relationships between these two and the rest of the royals. Noting the king’s home, George’s presence in the Kew Palace helps to contextualise the royals in their location and their relationships, particularly as the king was moved to Kew to treat his madness. Together with the staff too, this allows for a glimpse into what the conditions for those in the kitchen were like, particularly as the kitchens in Kew Palace have survived until today! This shows then how valuable the menus are as a way to begin viewing life in George’s court, proving useful to begin interpreting court relationships, such as during the Kings treatment at Kew. Though as an entry to exploring the Georgian court, the menus are not without shortcomings. Without further reading around the menus for instance, little insight can be gained into the king’s time at Kew, with only those attending the royals such as Burney and Willis offering some perspective into life in George’s court.[1] Aside of the personalities in court though, the menus offer a view into George himself, presenting him with a depth of personality rarely seen.

By exploring the king’s hobbies and his favoured culinary habits, the use of George’s menus offers a more human view into a king so often caricatured as a lunatic. In his hobbies, namely gardening and hunting, depictions of George create an image of a more relatable king with a love of agriculture and the kingly sport of hunting. [2] Meanwhile, in his culinary habits, viewing George’s menus can offer an insight into what was available regarding seasonal  foods, though those studied for this project were largely from winter. In this too, readers can also guess what the king’s preferred foods were, should they wish to read through all of the king’s menus such as his fondness for French cuisine. [3]

Vol-au-vents are among the many French dishes that can seen in the George III’s menus

Viewing the king’s medical history can also give an insight into George himself. Retrospective analysis of the king’s illness can offer an insight into what ailed him from a modern medical perspective. Meanwhile, the role of Dr Willis in aiding the king allows for an insight into the treatment George received and what ideas regarding ‘madness’ in the period were. In all of these instances the, the royal menus have allowed for a broad look into George III as a man, while also displaying how he was viewed and treated by others. In his illness too, his treatment helps show how the king fit into medical ideas compared to the rest of his subjects. In all of these occasions though, the issue arises of George only being presented by other people, making this view somewhat impersonal. This is likely due to his constant presence in the limelight, where many would scrutinise the king on a daily basis for his hobbies and his health.

From these examples then, it is clear that using George’s menus for a project was of great value in exploring such a broad area of history. By offering insight into an array of contemporary themes and ideas, the menus grant a personal insight into life in the royal court, even allowing for events to be explored to the day using other literature.[ In this too, the people associated with the menus can be explored too, as such offering a more in depth view into the life of George than could be thought possible by simply looking at what the king ate.

[1] Fanny Burney: The Keeper of the Robes, https://drbp.hypotheses.org/890; Dr Willis: The Cure to the King’s Madness or his Personal Torturer?, https://drbp.hypotheses.org/1016

[2] King George III: Farmer and Hunter, https://drbp.hypotheses.org/868

[3] British Cuisine is too French, https://drbp.hypotheses.org/873

Bibliography:

Burney, Frances, The Diary and Letters of Madame D’Arblay, Vol. 2 (London, 1891)

Burney, Frances, The Diary and Letters of Madame D’Arblay, Vol. 1 (Boston, 1910)

Brooke, John, King George III (Tiptree, 1972)

Historic Royal Palaces, The Royal Kitchens at Kew https://www.hrp.org.uk/kew-palace/history-and-stories/the-royal-kitchens-at-kew/#gs.8cxtda,

Unknown, Farmer George and His Wife (c. 1780s) https://www.rct.uk/collection/630059/farmer-george-his-wife

Rowlandson, Thomas, King George III returning from hunting through Eton (c. 1800) https://www.rct.uk/collection/913717/king-george-iii-returning-from-hunting-through-eton

Scull, Andrew, Madness in Civilisation (London, 2015)

LS9-226_0060, January 31, 1789

Fanny Burney: The Keeper of the Robes

Fanny Burney, who is best known as the author of novels Evelina and Cecilia, held the position of ‘Keeper of the Robes’ in the court of King George III and Queen Charlotte between 1786 and 1790. As Keeper of the Robes, Burney aided in dressing the Queen in a mostly ceremonial role, twice a day. Her role enabled her to form relationships with members of the royal family and household.

Fanny Burney was involved in court life at the time of the menus examined in this project and her extensive collections of journals and letters offer insight into her life and health at court and others who became affected by King George III’s illness. More information about members of the royal household present at the time of the menus can be found here, in one of our previous blogs.

To ‘a certain Miss Nobody’


Frances Burney as cited in hester davenport, faithful handmaid

Burney wrote her first diary at age sixteen and always wrote as if for an audience.[1] Initially, she wrote to an imaginary friend but by the time she was twenty, Burney’s diary became letters that she exchanged between her sister, Susan and other family friends. In her time at court, Fanny continued to write journals for Susan despite having been advised to not share details of her role in the royal household to the outside world.

‘The King is not well; he has not been quite well some time, yet nothing I hope alarming…’


FRANCES BURNEY AS CITED IN HESTER DAVENPORT, FAITHFUL HANDMAID

In October 1788, Burney wrote of the King’s illness which delayed the courts return to Windsor from Kew. The court were delayed for a week and Burney describes the melancholy and the difficulties of the time where anxiety was high. As King George III’s illness progresses, Burney shows the impact it had on the household and how his behavioural changes were perceived by members of his court. She also kept records of conversations that she had with other members of the royal household such as Colonel Goldsworthy and Colonel Digby that portrayed the anxieties of those close to the King.

‘Nobody stirred; not a voice was heard; not a step, not a motion. I could do nothing but watch, without knowing for what: there seemed a strangeness in the house most extraordinary.’


FRANCES BURNEY AS CITED IN HESTER DAVENPORT, FAITHFUL HANDMAID

During the period of illness, Burney’s relationship with Queen Charlotte is highlighted showing the companionship between the women and the increased pressures of Burney’s role as King George’s illness continued. On November 5th 1788, Burney was called to serve the Queen at one in the morning, after the royal family had dined. During the meal, it had been reported that the King had a violent outburst at one of his sons. She described the Queen as appearing ‘pale, ghastly pale’.

‘Deeply affected, I hastened up to her, but, in trying to speak, burst into an irresistible torrent of tears…She looked like death – colourless and wan; but nature is infectious; the tears gushed from her own eyes, and a perfect agony of weeping ensued…when it subsided, and she wiped her eyes, she said ‘I thank you, Miss Burney – you have made me cry – it is a great relief to me – I had not been able to cry before, all this night long’.’


FRANCES BURNEY AS CITED IN HESTER DAVENPORT, FAITHFUL HANDMAID

It was decided in November, 1788 that the King would move from Windsor to Kew to ensure privacy. On 5th December 1788, Dr. Willis was introduced to Colonel Digby and as seen by the inclusion of his servant in the menus, he was still present in the court in December, 1789. The King began a steady recovery in February 1789 and 23 April 1789 was celebrated as a day of thanksgiving for his recovery. As part of the celebration, Fanny Burney was awarded a medal for her service.

Royal Archives, LS9-226_0007,
14 December 1789.

Burney left the Queen’s service in July 1791. She continued to write letters and journals after she became trapped in Paris while visiting with her husband and son when the Napoleonic Wars restarted in 1802. She even wrote a detailed letter to her sister, Esther, about her mastectomy without anaesthetic in 1812 which you can read courtesy of the British Library.

Diaries and letters provide an alternate source which help to contextualise the menus in court life. The letters written by Burney give individuals of the court personality and character that make them feel more tangible. Burney also provides a valuable insight into the health and feelings of those surrounding King George III during his bouts of illness.


[1] Hester Davenport, Faithful Handmaid: Fanny Burney at the court of King George III (Stroud, 2000).

Dr Willis: The Cure to the King’s Madness or his Personal Torturer?

Earlier in the year, I transcribed a number of King George III’s menus from February 1789. In each instance, the title of ‘Dr Willis’s servant’ appeared, prompting me to investigate who this Dr Willis was. With this motivation too, I decided to explore Willis’s life and the treatment he conducted on the king, viewing this in the context of late eighteenth-century medicine. This idea of medicine was largely based on older religious and humoral ideas, shortly before the medical revolutions of the nineteenth-century, and as such appears alien compared to more modern treatment. In exploring Dr Willis, his rise as a physician and his appearance in George’s household will be explored, while his treatment of the king will be evaluated regarding contemporary medical ideas. In this too, the damage done to the king by Dr Willis will be recognised, but only insofar as his actions were in-line with the period’s medical practices.


Born to the minister of Lincoln Cathedral in 1718, Francis Willis was raised to be a religious man. He graduated Oxford University with an MA in 1741 and, having returned to study medicine, gained a medical MD in 1759. Between these years, Willis had married and had turned their home into a mental asylum, and would later go on to help found the Lincoln General Hospital in the 1760s. In 1788, aged seventy, Willis was summoned to court to aid the king, under Lady Harcourt’s recommendation, and began his work in December. Willis was well liked by many at court, such as Fanny Burney, for his manner and wit, but was seen as a quack by other royal physicians. By 17 February 1789, the king was seen to have been cured, and Willis’s job was done. He remained in court for a month after, to keep an eye on the king, and would return to Lincolnshire with a sizeable pension. In later life, Willis would help treat the queen of Portugal for her madness, no doubt aided by his reputation for aiding mad monarchs. Having retired from aiding the royal court in 1801, sending his son to help when the king would relapse, Willis would continue to practice medicine until his death in 1807, aged 89.

Dr Willis is noted here in George’s menu from January 1789 during their stay at Kew

In his service to the royals, Dr Willis was seen as a man of experience for his previous medical work in Lincolnshire, and aided the king as such. In this, the contemporary methods Willis used to treat the king were paired with other methods of psychological aid, meaning that the two parted on good terms despite Willis’s treatment. Though this is surprising considering the treatment George received. The King was tortured and abused in the name of ‘curing’ his madness and, while shocking by modern standards, this treatment was common in treating those deemed ‘mad’. Though simply stating that Willis’s methods were torturous is not enough to understand what the king underwent. In looking into the medical ‘aid’ Willis conducted, compared to medical knowledge in the period, an insight into what George endured is clear.

 

 

A portrait of Dr Willis by John Russel from the same year as the menu above

While by no means malicious, Willis’s treatment of the king was definitely harmful to his overall condition, though it was not uncommon for the period. For treatment, the king would regularly be bound in a chair and gagged, while suffering a wealth of mental and emotional abuse in the form of Willis’s ‘lectures’. In other instances, the king’s legs would be blistered to draw out bad humours, and would even be confined to a straightjacket if he were to remove the bandages from the wounds. George would also even be beaten by one of Willis’s assistants, perhaps even the one mentioned in the royal menus! Though compared to other cases of dealing with madness in the period, the king’s treatment was not out of the ordinary.


In madhouses, where the majority of the mentally ill were treated, conditions were as bleak as what the king endured, with cases such as William Belcher’s offering a harrowing example of treatment for the ‘mad’. As such, George received the same treatment, with Willis even stating that he would draw no distinction in treatment between the king or any other patient. In this then, while the king’s treatment may have been torturous, they were not uncommon in the context or done maliciously, as proven by the positive relationship between George and Willis. Despite this though, the treatment was not wholly effective, perhaps even delaying the king’s recovery from illness and damaging him overall. Furthermore, Willis’s treatment had no long-term effectiveness, with the king’s madness returning the next century and being permanent as of 1810.

“bound and tortured in a straight-waistcoat, fettered, crammed with physic with a bullock’s horn, and knocked down, and declared a lunatic by a Jury that never saw me…”

Belcher’s description of his treatment, Andrew Scull, Madness in Civilisation (London, 2015) p. 139


From this therefore, it is clear to modern audiences that Willis’s treatment was indeed harmful to the king by modern standards, though in his own context Willis acted as one would have with the knowledge they had. Indeed, Brooke’s analogy of Willis being no more cruel than a contemporary dentist removing teeth without anaesthetic speaks volumes about ideas of medicine, and of Willis in the eighteenth century.

Bibliography:

Brooke, John, King George III (Tiptree, 1972)
Burney, Frances, The Diary and Letters of Madame D’Arblay, Vol. 2 (London, 1891)
Clarke, John, The Life and Times of George III (London, 1972)
Hibbert, Christopher, George III: A Personal History (London, 1998)
Porter, Roy, “Willis, Francis” in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2012)
Scull, Andrew, Madness in Civilisation (London, 2015)
Smith, Leonard, Peters, Timothy, “Introduction to ’Details on the Establishment of Doctor Willis, for the Cure of Lunatics’ (1796)” in History of Psychiatry, Vol 28 (3), (September, 2017)

LS9-226_0060, January 31, 1789

Retrospective diagnosis: the borderline of science and the humanities

In the present day, diagnoses for aches, pains, conditions and illnesses are part of our individual medical history. Symptoms are understood, in the majority of cases, as signs that lead to answers. However, can we apply our understandings of medicine today on the perceived symptoms experienced by those in the past?

Retrospective diagnosis is a highly debatable topic which questions ethics, religion, scientific methodology and the responsibilities of historians. This post will focus on arguments surrounding the validity of a diagnosis for historical figures and consider whether a diagnosis matters in the pursuit of history. This is important to the project as King George III has retrospectively diagnosed based on evidence from his household such as doctor’s notes, diary entries, letters and even newspaper articles where suggestions for improving the King’s diet were made.

Problems with retrospective diagnosis

One of the issues identified with retrospective diagnosis is the absence of a practitioner-patient relationship which allows for the first-hand observation and interpretation of symptoms. Reports of a patient come from sources such as letters, diaries or records whose authors may fail to recognise symptoms that would aid in contemporary diagnosis. Symptoms that are recognised may also be described using different terminology that could vary in meaning. Diseases, viruses in particular, change over time so their symptoms may not remain consistent.

‘Historians have no qualms about revealing any reality, good or bad or ugly, of a historical figure’

Osamu Muramoto

Verifying a diagnosis of a historical figure is problematic as most diseases do not affect the bones. In cases where tissue is available, as with Chopin whose heart was preserved, there are other obstructions to scientific method, with arguments surrounding the preservation of peace for the deceased and respect for the people affected by the historical figure in question. Muramoto highlights that some diagnoses may be damaging or redeeming to a historical figure’s reputation. This may have a negative effect on their followers or attempt to excuse or explain away their actions.

However…

In the present day, the degree of certainty of a medical diagnosis where practitioner-patient relationship is established is not 100%. Research on the retrospective diagnosis of a historical figures is made public allowing for peer review to aid in the verification and validity of the findings.

A diagnosis can highlight the influence and impact that the disease may have had on their work or behaviours and offer new explanations. As well as adding to the historiography of an individual historical figure, it can provide a history of the disease or condition itself and can be used to create an idea of what the disease was like to live with in their period.

‘The Madness of King George’

The treatment of King George III’s illness will be discussed in a following blog of this project. Retrospective diagnosis for King George III has been based off records that were produced by his physicians. While the physicians of King George III had a practitioner-patient relationship, Joanna Edge has argued that symptoms have been chosen selectively by contemporary practitioners to suit a diagnosis.

King George III and others act as ‘windows of opportunity’ to learn more about social perceptions and medical practices of the past, so are contemporary diagnoses damaging to the interpretation of sources?

Or, by using retrospective diagnosis as a competitive theory, is it possible to use sources in innovative ways that create a broader historiography which can be verified through peer review?

Where do you stand on retrospective diagnosis? Is it a help or a hindrance? Please share your thoughts below!


Further reading:

Edge, Joanne, ‘Diagnosing the past’, Wellcome Collection (2018), https://wellcomecollection.org/articles/W5D4eR4AACIArLL8, Wellcome Collection, https://wellcomecollection.org.

Karenberg, A., ‘Retrospective Diagnosis: Use and Abuse in Medical Historiography’, Prague Medical Report, 110:2 (2009), pp. 140-145.

Muramoto, Osamu, ‘Retrospective diagnosis of a famous historical figure’, Philosophy, Ethics and Humanities in Medicine, 9:10 (2014).

Pruszewicz, Marek, ‘The mystery of Chopin’s death’, BBC News (22 December 2014), https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-29915863, BBC, https://www.bbc.co.uk.

Giving Food as Gifts


George Cruikshank ‘At Home in the Nursery or The master and Misses Twoshoes Christmas Party’ 1835

We all love food. We eat it every day, we incorporate it into celebrations, and we even use it as gifts – it is the most basic form of offering. Most family get-togethers nowadays will often incorporate food, with the practice often helping maintain relationships. The gifting of food is still a very common practice; I frequently gift my grandparents with chocolates and biscuits, despite my grandfather having diabetes… he likes what he likes.  However, how common was the gifting of food in Early Modern England?

Gift giving is explained as having two features: the first is the exchange of goods, with the value of gifts being uncertain and the time between giving and exchanging being at the discretion of those involved.[1] The meaning of the gift typically outweighs its value. The second feature of gift giving is that it takes place in a context of reciprocal interactions, with parties usually exchanging gifts at the same time.[2] 

The gifting of food was important in Early Modern society for the maintenance of relationships, peacemaking, corporate alliances and sometimes as a doctrine of charity to those who may be less well off. If you engage in readings regarding Medieval or Early Modern life, you might notice that food gifts sometimes appear as ‘rewards’. Food was not the only thing exchanged. During the period we see items such as silverware, furniture and money also exchanged. Neighbourly exchange of goods was common within this period. There was still a popular belief in witchcraft and some people thought it best to please their neighbours to avoid being cursed or being subjected to accusations. Often, peasants gave hens to their lords at Easter and other times throughout the year as well as their rent which needed to be paid.

Gift Giving at Christmas

Christmas has often been known as a time of over-spending and overindulgence, some might argue that we spend far too much money on gifts for loved ones and friends. Within the Early Modern period, gift giving typically commenced on New Years Day. Some people gave items of monetary value, whereas others exchanged produce. This included apples, eggs or a fat capon (a castrated cockerel specially fattened for the table).[3]  




Langley and Company, ‘Langley’s New Twelfth Night Characters’, 1818

Foods for the Feast

Dining was a common practice for those living in Early Modern society. The upper-class had certain cultural practices which were to be followed. This included things like elaborate dinner clothing, meal preparations, entertainment and the exchange of goods.

In the countryside, the gentry and elite members of society often showed their hospitality by hosting entertainment for their friends and neighbors. This included music, feasts and performances, especially during the Christmas period. Guests showed their gratitude by giving gifts to the hosts. A gentleman from Sussex, Timothy Burrell often invited friends, family, and dozens of the “humbler neighbors and their wives”.[4] Richer neighbors gifted the Burrell household with presents such as large quantities of cheese and butter, wine, sugar, chocolate, ducks, and pigeons.[5] The “humbler” attendees would bring “small tributes”. [6]

The Early Modern Period saw some of the most notable exchanges in history, including the Columbian Exchange. Despite this well-known, large scale form of exchange, it is important to remember the small transactions that occurred within communities as tokens of gratitude and appreciation. Remember, ‘It is better to give an apple than to eat it’!


[1] Ilana Krausman Ben-Amos, ‘Gifts and Favors: Informal Support in Early Modern England’, The Journal of Modern History, Vol. 72, No. 2 (June 2000), pp. 229.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Hannah Flemming, ‘Christmases past to present(s): how the great British Christmas took shape’ (2011), <https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/europe/uk/london/8966907/Christmases-past-to-presents-how-the-great-British-Christmas-took-shape.html> [accessed 28 April 2019].

[4] Timothy Burrell, ‘Journal and Account Book of Timothy Burrell, from the Year 1683 to 1714’, Sussex Archaeological Collections, vol. 3 (London, 1850), pp. 125.

[5] Ilana Krausman Ben-Amos, ‘Gifts and Favors: Informal Support in Early Modern England’, The Journal of Modern History, Vol. 72, No. 2 (June 2000), pp. 315.

[6] Timothy Burrell, ‘Journal and Account Book of Timothy Burrell, from the Year 1683 to 1714’, Sussex Archaeological Collections, vol. 3 (London, 1850), pp. 126.

Georgian Christmas – What a Feast!


Hogarth’s ‘The Assembly at Wanstead House’, 1728-31

When we think of Christmas, most of us will think of the massive amounts of food we have left over at the end of the day. If you are like my family one joint of meat is not enough, we typically having gammon, turkey and beef. But just what did the Georgians feast on at Christmas and how similar is this to what we eat today? 

After the English Revolution (1642 to 1660) Christmas was made illegal in England under the rule of radical Puritan, Oliver Cromwell. Cromwell banned the festivities as the Puritans believed that “excessive eating, drinking, and partying” were sinful acts and that the day should instead be a sober day of reflection.[1]After his death, the monarchy was reinstated, with King Charles II on the throne. Christmas was back!

Georgian Christmas spanned much longer than in the Medieval and Tudor period or than our own festive period today. Beginning on St. Nicholas Day, December 6th, to Twelfth Night, January 16th.[2] The month-long celebration included attending church, exchanging presents, lavish get-togethers and parties.

Traditional Food

Christmas in this period saw large feasts, parties and get-togethers, meaning the quantity of food needed was massive. A lot of the food preparation was thus done in advance. Dishes like boiled puddings were something the kitchen staff and cooks could prepare around a week beforehand without them going bad. Cold food was also something that was customary.

Some dishes the feasts included were turkey or goose, venison but this was mainly eaten by the gentry, Christmas pudding, mince pies, twelfth cake, which is like modern Christmas cake, soups, cheese and a whole array of other meats and vegetables.

Doughlas Barnett, ‘Passing The Wassail Bowl’

As Christmas is a time for festivities and parties, many in the Georgian era consumed a lightly spiced ale with honey from large drinking bowl. The Wassail bowl was passed around the dinner table from guest to guest. The Anglo-Saxon term “weas hael” is what the Wassail Bowl was traditionally toasted to – meaning “for your health”.

Mince Pies

Mince pies have always been a popular item to eat around Christmas time. Today, the average Briton consumes an average of 27 mince pies at during the Christmas period.[3] However, mince pies haven’t always been the sweet treat we know them as today.

Traditionally, mince pies did contain mincemeat, typically being beef or mutton but in this period the type of meat would depend on the household income. These mince pies were a savory dish, rather than a sweet. Something strange about the mince pies is that during preparation an old tale demands that the mixture should only be stirred anti-clockwise. Also, the shape had great significance. They were an oval shape to represent the manger baby Jesus slept in.[2] Around Christmas, stars were put on top of the mince pie to represent the star that led the shepherds and kings to Bethlehem; this is something we still see today.

When looking at King George III’s Christmas Day Menu and many of the other menus for this festive period, “minced pyes” are a popular item incorporated into the daily feasts. You can see “2 dishes of minced pyes” at the bottom of the image to the right.

If you are interested in baking your own traditional Georgian mince pies, you can find a recipe put together by the National Trust here.

Christmas Pudding

Christmas pudding was regularly referred to as plum pudding within the Georgian era as one of its main ingredients was plum. Christmas pudding was traditionally made with chopped up pieces of meat, but within the Georgian period, suet was used instead. Again, like mince pies, plum pudding is something that frequently appears on King George III’s royal menus.

If you would like to make your own Georgian Christmas pudding this year take a look at the recipe below.

A boiled Plum Pudding – Hannah Glasse (18th-century recipe)

“Take a pound of suet cut in little pieces not too fine a pound of currants and a pound of raisins storied eight eggs half the whites half a nutmeg grated and a teaspoonful of beaten ginger a pound of flour a pint of milk beat the eggs first then half the milk beat them together and by degrees stir in the flour then the suet spice and fruit and as much milk as will mix it well together very thick Boil it five hours”.[]Hannah Glasse
[

I Hope you have enjoyed reading about Georgian Christmas dishes and get to try out the recipes. Happy baking!


[1] Serina Sandhu, Shoppers have already spent £4 million on mince pies (2017), https://inews.co.uk/news/uk/shoppers-already-spent-4-million-mince-pies/ [accessed 27 April 2019]

[2] The Journal, ‘The taste of Christmas past’ (2010), http://www.thejournal.co.uk/culture/restaurants-bars/the-taste-of-christmas-past-4445817 [accessed 27 April 2019].

[3] Joanne Mattern, ‘Celebrate Christmas’ (United States: Enslow Publishers, 2008), pp. 22.

[4] Ben Johnson, ‘A Georgian Christmas’, Historic UK, < https://www.historic-uk.com/CultureUK/A-Georgian-Christmas/> [accessed 27 April 2019].

[5] Hannah Glasse, ‘The Art of Cookery made plain and easy’ (Michigan, 1967). pp. 167.5



A Spoon of Glucose A Day Keeps the Frugal Eating Habits at Bay! George III and his preferred menu.

It is well documented that George III left a lot to be desired in his choices of food and preferred to keep things simple. Items such as boiled eggs, bread and butter and muffins were just some of the choices that graced his lips and whilst seem staples in a typical English breakfast for a modern person, this type of dining was considered frugal and to some, a far cry from royal.[1] Whilst I do not wish to divulge discussion in his health complications as a possible reason for his personal choices in consumption, it is important to note that it is highly likely that they played their part. What I wish to focus on instead is the public perception of George because of his eating habits and how they made their way in to the public sphere to be commented and gossiped upon and more importantly, if the motives behind them being in the public sphere was more to do with politics than a concern for the King’s food preferences.

One of the most popular appearances of George in the public media space was in the form of satirical prints or caricatures, most notable those created by James Gillray and published by Hannah Humphrey.  

George III with Princess Charlotte and his daughters,
drinking tea without sugar. National Portrait Gallery.

One of the most popular issues of Gillray’s work is that which is pictured above, of the king sitting with his wife and daughters, explaining how marvellous the taste of tea is without the need of sugar. This attitude, especially from a royal would have resonated with people from lower classes whilst alienating the upper. Sugar was an expensive and highly valued commodity in the eighteenth century and was essentially available to those who had the money to spend. Whilst George and Charlotte commend the practise of dismissing sugar, the faces of the daughters seem less convinced – pouting their lips in distaste to their fathers, well, taste!

However, this may not have been anything to do with George’s taste or eating habits but instead a political portrait. In the late eighteenth century, a movement to abolish slavery was growing and discontinuing the use of sugar was become a popular part of imagery for the movement.[2] It could therefore be argued that this was not a comment publicly about the kings eating habits as it initially looks but instead a political statement, used to publicly show the King’s stance.

Unfortunately, despite any other achievements attributed to George, he is most widely recognised because of his illness and consequently his frugal eating habits. For the most part, George was renowned for living a quiet, personal life and as a result, he had no mistresses which mean that upheaval, scandal and complication was less of a concern in George’s court. 

In an article, published in The Times in 1778, titled ‘On His Majesty’s Disorder’, criticisms of the kings treatment are addressed by the writer to the kings physicians, Sir George Baker MD and is justified by using the food present in the King’s diet.[3] He offers advice as to how the diet can be improved upon, switching out mundane food items such as potatoes for rice to present a ‘better diet than the rubbish we are told is prescribed’.[4] This concern in a publication available to the ordinary people, does show that there was talk of the King’s eating habits but how they were not seen as preferential for the king but instead detrimental to his health but advised by professionals. The source provides very little context so the idea that this could also be a political attack against physicians and the treatment they prescribe cannot be dismissed, however what can not be denied is the intrigue surrounding a king who ate more like an ordinary person than a monarch was expected.  


[1] Kenneth Baker, George III: A Life in Caricature (2007), p. 113.

[2] Jon Stobart, Sugar and Spice: Grocers and Groceries in Provincial England, 1650-1830 (Oxford, 2013)

[3] Rafael Euba, “The Diet of King George III – Extra,” in British Journal of Psychiatry, 200 (2012), 329–29 <http://dx.doi.org/10.1192/bjp.bp.111.102186>

[4] Ibid.

British Cuisine is too French

King George III’s dinner menu, 1789, 9 December

Despite the animosity between the British and the French in the times of King George III, the royal palate became rather fond of French cuisine. Dishes like ‘Des Pomme de Terre en gratin’, ‘Gateau de Mille feuille’, and ‘Cotelets des Poularde glac’ were listed in the royal menus of December 1789, as is the case for many of the wealthy.

Although this fad only really gathered steam in the nineteenth century, it does not come as a surprise that the royal household, with their wealth and proximity to Continental influence, should be trendsetters in their time. There were French eating houses, and French cooks were highly valued and considered a necessary presence in the kitchen of any “respectable Country Gentleman’s household”.[1]

French influence could be observed in both ingredients and methods of food preparation, such as meat that is fricasseed or ragoued, or served with sauces in particular. However, not everyone was as impressed by French cuisine. Hannah Glasse denounced its excessiveness, lamenting “I have heard of a Cook that used six Pounds of Butter to fry twelve Eggs, when every Body knows, that understands cooking, that Half a Pound is full enough, or more than need be used…so much is the bling Folly of this Age, that they would rather be imposed on by a French Booby, than give Encouragement to a good English Cook!”.[2] However, she also included plenty of French, or French-inspired dishes in her own cookbook. This derision of French cuisine was probably not unique to Glasse, for such extravagance could not be afforded by the less-than-wealthy and not to mention, there was a burgeoning sense of nationalist pride to be taken in British cuisine.

Hannah Glasse, The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, 1747

French cuisine was not the only foreign influence to be found in eighteenth century England, where trade, immigration, and imperialism had brought all kinds of marvels.

Tea, coffee, sugar, spices had been introduced to the British diet, not without a keen awareness of their originating countries.[3] With the introduction of these new-fangled ingredients, the meaning of food grew to become representative of their cultures. Recipes for non-British dishes such as German ‘sour-crout’, Indian ‘pellow’ (pilau), and ‘China Chilo’ flourished as more and more Britons developed a taste for the exotic, but at the same time, the rivalry between national dishes grew ever stronger.

British food was exalted for its simplicity and plainness and roast beef became the country’s national dish. As Howes and Lalonde describes it, for some, “to eat British food was to affirm one’s participation in the British nation in a more resolutely self-conscious way than could have been the case previously”.[4] For others, foreign food was simply too costly, and they continued to subsist on ‘traditionally’ English fare which was much more affordable.


[1] Emma Kay, “Britain’s Own French Revolution”, Dining with the Georgians: A Delicious History (Gloucestershire: Amberley Publishing Limited, 2014).

[2] Glasse, “To the Reader”, pp. III.

[3] Troy Bickham, “Eating the Empire: Intersections of Food, Cookery and Imperialism in Eighteenth-Century Britain”, Past & Present, no. 198 (2008), pp. 71-109, http://www.jstor.org/stable/25096701.

[4] David Howes and Marc Lalonde, “The History of Sensibilities: Of the Standard of Taste in Mid-Eighteenth Century England and the Circulation of Smells in Post-Revolutionary France”, Dialectical Anthropology 16, no. 2 (1991), pp 125-135, http://www.jstor.org/stable/29790373, pp. 128.

Transcription 101: Learn the basics of transcription.

Have you ever wanted to learn how to read and transcribe old historical texts but had no idea on where to start? If so, then I am here to give you my basic tips on how to transcribe historical document. When transcribing you must keep in mind that you are not reading modern text, therefore the techniques you were taught for reading shouldn’t be used in transcribing. In this blog I will be using the Wednesday 17th December 1789 Royal Menu as a template to teach the basics of transcription.[1]

It might seem daunting at first to transcribe due to the handwriting, but this should not stop attempting to transcribe a historical document. To begin, there are different techniques that can be used to transcribe. When I transcribe the first thing I do and  would suggest to do is some research and find out any historical background information of the document; this includes when the documents was written, who wrote it and why it was written, this will give you context for your document. The document that I am using as an example of transcription was written in December 1789, therefore placing it into historical context was written during the Georgian era. It is also stated as a Royal Menu, thus from this we can take that the document will hold food items and meals.

This is the date at the top of the Royal Menu.

The next step I would suggest is to skim read the document, not only does this help through the possibility of being able to pick up on a couple words and letters, but it then makes the process of transcription easier as you start to get used to the handwriting. A mistake that is often made is that people translate words rather than transcribing them. Taking a look at the document, the food ‘brocoli’ appears multiple times; it is very easy to read this as our modern day word ‘broccoli’, but this wrong and can cause many mistakes; as this translating rather than transcribing. Therefore by taking a document letter by letter may seem a long process, but it helps you transcribe accurately and not make the error of translating.

‘Brocoli’

If you are finding it difficult to read the document or are unable to figure out letters, do not panic or give up! The best advice for this would be to leave it and come back after with a pair of fresh eyes; and by this point you may have figured out the word or letter from it being repeated within the document. If you still are unable to identify the word or letter, there are many useful online tools and resources which can be used that offer guidance. One of the tools I used for this document; it offers the alphabet, and this allows me to identify letters that I was unable to solve initially.[2]   

You may also come across different lines, dashes or even little squiggles throughout a document. Some of the can be used as decoration for the end of a word, while others separate text. One common letter that comes in multiple early modern history English texts is what is commonly called a long s, which sometimes can look like an ‘f’ or ‘ʃ’. This is just simply the letter‘s’. Taking a look at the royal menu we can see that the abbreviation of ‘Oys.’ is common throughout the document. Previously ‘oyster sauce’ was stated as menu item; therefore it can be figured out that ‘Oys.’ is an abbreviation for oyster sauce. Other more common abbreviations can be seen in the form of what looks like an infinity sign connected with a ‘c’; this translated to modern day is ‘etc’, however written in transcription it is ‘&c.’     

An example.

Remember it is difficult to transcribe everything on the first go and this does not mean that you won’t be able to transcribe the document. It is fine to leave the document and come back to it later with fresh eyes, there are also online resources that help transcribing which you can use. It is also vital that you do not translate when you are transcribing, as this can change the original lettering of a word and in some instances change the meaning of a word. Once you have conquered and transcribed your first document you will develop your transcription techniques, which will make it easier to transcribe further documents. If you are going to transcribe a document let me know what techniques you use and how you got along in the comments. Also now that you can read, why not check out what foods were eaten during a Georgian Christmas here?!

[1] LS9-226_0015; 17 December 1789

[2] Andrew Zurcher,. English Handwriting 1500-1700, an online course https://www.english.cam.ac.uk/ceres/ehoc/index.html [accessed 5 April 2019]


King George III: Farmer and Hunter

Farmer George and his wife

King George III’s preference for a simple domestic life, coupled with his interest in the theory and practice of agriculture, earned him the homely nickname of ‘Farmer George’.

From the King’s private papers, it can be observed that the he was an earnest and active reader, jotting down notes in the margins of the agricultural periodicals. It is rare however to come across personal commentary that suggests his assessment of the text. In spite of that, what his notes can tell us is that the King was largely concerned with three general issues, namely the political economy of agriculture, the merits of ‘old’ versus ‘new’ husbandry methods, and the cultivation of specific crops.[1]

Even without personal input, the King’s notes are more revealing than expected. By selecting and rephrasing or summarising specific arguments, it is possible to determine which ideas and concepts the King agreed with and found useful.

Seeing as agriculture was the dominant industry in Britain at the time, having undergone an ‘enlightenment’, the King was not the only one who was invested in its development. There was a flurry of agricultural manuals, treatises, and periodicals being published as increasing numbers of gentlemen landowners sought to deepen their agricultural knowledge.[2] The King collected these materials, absorbing new information and debates as they arrived hot off the press. As the leader of the nation, it comes as no surprise that he was particularly interested in recommendations for increasing the profitability and efficiency of farms. This then involved issues like the management of land and labour, learning new methods of husbandry while retaining the merits of the old, and getting more mileage out of existing types of crops.

Apart from reading, the King established farms at Windsor, Kew, Richmond, and Mortlake, giving each his personal attention. He conducted research and practical experiments on his own estates, devising a model farm for his sons to cultivate a strip.[3] One of his key accomplishments is the successful import of merino sheep to improve British wool stock.  

Letters from Ralph Robinson to “Annals of Agriculture and Other Useful Arts”

One of such agricultural periodicals that King George III pored over was Annals of Agriculture. The publication was founded by Arthur Young, whom the King held in high esteem. Young advised the King on matters pertaining to farming and was appointed director of a farm in Kew Park.[4] He might not have guessed however that he was interacting with the King in a much more down-to-earth manner.

For all the reticence in his private notes, King George III occasionally expressed his thoughts and opinions in letters written to the Annals, albeit using a pseudonym. Adopting the name of a shepherd at Windsor, the King wrote two letters ‘On Mr. Ducket’s Modo of Cultivation’ in 1787 as a ‘Ralph Robinson’.[5] He praises Mr Ducket’s farm, delving into his practices and somewhat controversial husbandry methods, with the intention of providing advice to its readers.

Mr Ducket prioritised the profitability of a crop over a routine system of planting, causing him to “examine which sort of Grain will pay him best, and to vary his changes of Crops according to the demand of that particular kind of Grain instead of laying down a regular rotation of Crops”.[6] Although the identity of Mr Ducket cannot be ascertained, the example set by him must have been significant for the King to decide to write to the Annals about. Perhaps Ducket’s alternative methods and adaptable attitude towards the choice of crops was a concept that the King found novel and wanted to encourage.

The Royal Hunt in Windsor Park

Not content with just farming, King George III was also an avid hunter. Rather than its practicality, hunting held great meaning among the aristocratic class for its ability to display and maintain social order.

The 1671 Game Law had restricted hunting to the domains of the wealthy with land, making poaching a punishable offence. This, along with other expenses that come with hunting (outfits, equipment, upkeep of horses etc) served to cement the status of hunting as a sport for the well off and powerful.[7] The royal hunt then epitomized this, acting as “the most important blood ritual through which the hierarchy of status and honour around the king was ordered”.[8]

For King George III however, hunting was also a way for him to both exercise and spend time with his sons, training them in the skills expected of gentlemen. Windsor was greatly favoured for it was close to the capital and offered ready access to good hunting country. The King and his companions hunted deer there, but fox-hunting, and grouse and pheasant shooting were also popular choices for the aristocrats.

On 6 and 9 December 1789, ‘Haunch of Venison roasted’ was served for dinner at the royal household. This venison, or deer meat, may very well have been a successful hunt by King George III!


[1] James Fisher, ‘Farmer George?’ Notes on Agriculture, Georgian Papers Programme, <https://georgianpapersprogramme.com/2017/01/19/farmer-georges-notes-agriculture/#_edn3>, [accessed 26 April 2019]

[2] Fisher, ‘Farmer George?’, <https://georgianpapersprogramme.com/2017/01/19/farmer-georges-notes-agriculture/#_edn3>, [accessed 26 April 2019]

[3] Jeremy Black, “Character and Behaviour”, George III: America’s Last King (London: Yale University Press, 2008), pp. 137.

[4] Sir Walter Gilbey, Bart, The Royal Family and Farming: George III to George V (London: Vinton & Co, 1911), pp. 15.

[5] H.C. Bauer, “Royal Ghostwriter”, The Serials Librarian 3, no. 2 (1979), pp. 191, doi:10.1300/j123v03n02_09.

[6] Letters from Ralph Robinson to “Annals of Agriculture and Other Useful Arts”, Georgian Papers Programme, Royal Archives, <http://transcribegeorgianpapers.wm.edu/scripto/transcribe/302/6316>, pp.8, [accessed 26 April 2019].

[7] Black, “Character and Behaviour”, pp. 138.

[8] Sylvie Nail, “Preliminary Chapter: Woodlands as Landscapes of Power”, Forest Policies and Social Change in England (Springer Science & Business Media, 2008), pp. 14.

Royal Kitchens at Kew

By George III’s reign the main residence at Kew was the Dutch house, and the kitchens needed to supply food to all those present in the household at the time; typically, the King himself, his wife Charlotte, and the Princesses. Among these numbers were also the staff themselves, meaning the kitchens needed to handle a huge amount of food at a time. The kitchens were constructed separately to the Dutch house, and where originally built to serve the culinary needs of the White House. The kitchens were not consistently open until 1788, when the royal family began to stay in the household for increased lengths of time.

Following Queen Charlotte’s death in 1818 the kitchens were left unused and abandoned until 2012. [1] Before we delve into the kitchen staff and resources, we should first establish what the kitchens were comprised of. It included a large main area with four rooms leading from it specifically suited for the holding and preparation of different foods or for certain tasks. One of the four rooms was the bread house for the production and baking of bread, another was a cold room for the storing of meats and fish. It was extremely important to keep fish fresh as they were an example of a more luxurious and expensive food. It has been estimated that fish such as Turbots could individually cost approximately £1 10 shillings, which would cost over £60 in modern terms. [2] The other two rooms were sculleries for the storage of silverware and the cleaning of utensils and other cooking equipment. [1] Outside of the kitchen area there was also an ice house for the storage of food needing preserving for longer periods of time. The structure is located under earth, allowing for a natural method of cooling perishable food.

The Ice House. Picture taken by Jasmine Moran at Kew Gardens 03/05/19

The kitchen also had additional upstairs space which contained offices, one being that occupied by the Clerk of the Kitchen William Gorton. There was also another storage space for the more exorbitant dry products, named the dry larder for which he held the key. [1] There was also an exterior to the kitchens, which held the kitchen gardens. This is where most of the vegetables were sourced for the royal menu.

William Gorton’s listed menus. Picture taken by Jasmine Moran at Kew Gardens 03/05/19
Kitchen Garden. Picture taken by Jasmine Moran at Kew Gardens 03/05/19

Despite the fact there were rarely visitors or feasts during the King’s periods of confinement, there was still a significant number of staff working to ensure the kitchen functions ran smoothly. Surprisingly, considering the emphasis on a woman’s place in the domestic environment, there were no women employed in Kew kitchens. Instead there were 23 men and boys working, which was the norm in a Georgian kitchen. [1] This was half the usual number of staff held in a palace kitchens. The lack of staff was because of the small size of the Dutch house, and the lack of feasts held. [3] I was also interested to learn that all the staff in the kitchens had to swear their loyalty to the monarch.

When considering the other staff, there were various different roles in a Georgian kitchen, some of which were surprising to me. For example, there were Scourers who were tasked with cleaning the dishes. While this is not surprising in itself, there was also a master Scourer who also had his own assistant. Evidently the cleanliness of the dishes was of the upmost importance and needed to be supervised intensely. In the second scullery three men had the job of ensuring the silverware was spotless. There were three porters, two for coal and one general porter. Another interesting feature is the presence of a Turnbroach who was responsible for rotating the spits on which meats were cooked. [4]

Another crucial member of the kitchen was William Gorton, as the Clerk of the Kitchen he was responsible for all aspects of its organisation, with the help of his assistant Samuel Wharton, another Clerk of the kitchen. He was the author of the menus which were written every evening for the following day. Although he was in charge of budgeting and food expenditure he was restricted by the Board of the Green Cloth. [2] This was essentially responsible for the administration of the royal palaces, including food. [6] Another essential member of staff, and one which Gorton communicated with regularly concerning the construction of each menu was the Master cook William Wybrown, who originally started working in the kitchens as a child.

Interestingly, Wybrown was featured in a rather dramatic poem which detailed the occasion a louse was found on the George III’s plate, depicting him questioning the pages and cooks demanding who the louse belonged to and how it got there. Evidently it was considered a catastrophic mistake which was ridiculed extensively. Wybrown is given a less than flattering description in the poem;

“the great Cook-Major comes! his eyes – Fierce as the redd’ning flame that roasts and fries; His cheeks like Bladders, with high passion glowing, or like a fat Dutch Trumpeter’s when blowing.”


Pindar, Peter, The Lousiad: an heroi-comic poem. Canto I, (London, 1786), P. 20. [7]

It is interesting to note how seemingly small occurrences could influence the reputation of a household’s kitchen, making it a public mockery.

It is clear the kitchens were a bustling hub of the palace and was essential to the well-being of the entire household. Although in the case of Kew palace the kitchen staff was fairly limited in comparison to other royal palaces, it still had the same functioning as any other royal palace and served it well for the years in which the royals resided there.


References

[1] University of Reading, A History of Royal Food and Feasting, <https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/royal-food/0/steps/17090> [date assessed 28 April 2019].

[2] Historical Royal Palaces, Factsheet Royal Kitchens at Kew, <https://hrpprodsa.blob.core.windows.net/hrp-prod-container/11112/factsheet-royal-kitchens-at-kew-final_2.pdf>  [date assessed 29 April 2019], pp. 1-2.

[3] University of Reading, A History of Royal Food and Feasting, <https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/royal-food/0/steps/17089> [date assessed 28 April 2019].

[4] University of Reading, A History of Royal Food and Feasting, <https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/royal-food/0/steps/17091> [date assessed 26 April 2019].

[5] University of Reading, A History of Royal Food and Feasting, <https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/royal-food/0/steps/17091> [date assessed 26 April 2019].

[6] The National Archives, Records of the Lord Steward, the Board of Green Cloth and other officers of the Royal Household, <https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C202> [date assessed 30 April 2019].

[7] Pindar, Peter, The Lousiad: an heroi-comic poem. Canto I, (London, 1786), p. 1. Bibliographic number: T041275 (estc), <https://data.historicaltexts.jisc.ac.uk/view?pubId=ecco-0835100700&terms=The%20Lousiad%20an%20heroi-comic%20poem&pageId=ecco-0835100700-220> [date assessed 20 April 2019].

Kew Palace: History and the Grounds

This post will provide context to the grounds and history of Kew palace, where the menus which are included in our series of posts were written and served. This residence changed fairly dramatically over its history, hosting some influential and royal guests. Frederick Prince of Wales was one occupant who shaped the grounds and houses on the property greatly, including the Royal kitchens (which will be discussed in the next post). George III, the main figure in this project, saw it as a family refuge, slightly removed from the bustle of London. In his later reign while mentally unstable, which will be discussed in later posts, he was confined there. The area of Kew Gardens and Richmond were also key to the menus, especially for the sourcing of foods through farming and hunting.

Kew itself is situated in Richmond, London, extremely close to Richmond park, the site of another, larger royal palace. The original grounds were far different to what stands today. Originally the land contained a larger palace which was used as the primary royal residence, built and remodelled for Frederick Prince of Wales. This was located opposite the Dutch house, which is now the largest and only palace on the grounds; the site of which has been commemorated with a sundial. [1]

The Dutch House at Kew Gardens, taken by Jasmine Moran at Kew Palace 03/05/19

The Dutch house was built in 1631 for silk merchant Samuel Fortrey, however, from the early 1700s it was utilized by Fredrick Prince of Wales and his wife Princess Caroline as a short-term retreat. It was likely they would have occupied the White House. From contemporary sketches we can understand what the original house must have looked like; below is a sketch of the palace from a text detailing the appearance of Kew. [2]

The White House at Kew, 1763 [2]

As the image depicts it was a more fitting royal establishment than the house which stands today, nevertheless, George and his family happily spent many times at the Dutch house. With its beautiful exterior and huge size its shocking that it would become derelict.

Sadly, the White House fell into disrepair and was demolished in 1802 for the preparation of a new “castellated Palace”. [3] Work began in the early 1800s, however George grew tired of its development by 1806 due to his developing eye issues. Although £100,000 had been spent and a significant amount had been constructed the project was abandoned. It stood for 20 or so more years before it was destroyed by George IV. [3]

The grounds had gone through many tumultuous years, and by the end of Georges’ reign the Dutch house was the only one standing (apart from Queen Charlottes’ cottage). It was also a house which saw much emotional hardship, particularly periods such as the confinement of George III during his bouts of insanity and then the death of Queen Charlotte in 1818. Although most of the original palace no longer stands, the red brick Dutch house (the current Kew palace), Queen Charlotte’s cottage retreat, and the kitchens remain.

The kitchens, which were constructed separately to the rest of the accommodation were large and well-suited for the royal inhabitants. They were created to be functional for a significantly larger property, being the White house, and contained many of the most important implements to a Georgian kitchen. The kitchens were the site for the preparation of the Royal menus and their creation, with some foods being sourced on Kew Garden grounds, or in the Richmond area, which was the site of another palace. This will be examined more closely in the next post.


References:

[1] Rachel Knowles, The White House – a Regency History guide, <https://www.regencyhistory.net/2014_02_01_archive.html> [date assessed 25 April 2019].

[2] A Description of the Gardens and Buildings at Kew, in Surrey, (Brentford, 1763), p. 15. Bibliographic number: T117923 (estc), <https://data.historicaltexts.jisc.ac.uk/view?pubId=ecco-0085801500&terms=A%20Description%20of%20the%20Gardens%20and%20Buildings%20at%20Kew> [date assessed 15 April 2019].

[3] Richmond Libraries’ Local Studies Collection, Local History Notes, <https://www.richmond.gov.uk/media/6315/local_history_kew_palaces.pdf> [date assessed 28 April 2019], p. 3.

Who dined at the Palace?

The Royal Menu’s entails the meals that the King, Queen and their family were eating on a daily basis, alongside listing the meals of what the other people at the Kew Palace were eating. This includes the servants, workers and guests who would be staying and living at the palace. This blog post entails to show who the the different guests were and their roles at Kew Palace.

The recording of the Royal Menu’s would have most likely been recorded by ‘The Clerk of the Kitchen’; it was their responsibility to record every meal which would be served to the Royal family, guest and workers.When taking a look at the Royal Menu’s from 1789, you can see that the first meals written on the first page are ‘Their Majesties Dinner’. Which are the meals for the Royals. Moreover their children and their servants are also present in the Royal Menu’s; for example Princess Mary, Princess Amelia and Princess Sophia.[1]

Multiple guests are recorded in the Royal Menu, lets first take a look at Dr Francis Willis (1718-1807) and his servants. Dr Willis was a doctor of ‘madness’ and he ran an asylum in Lincolnshire, but left to look after King George III on November 1788 when he was called upon to take care of the King when his ‘mania was becoming uncontrollable’. By 1789 the King was seen to have been ‘cured’ which led to the increase of the reputation of Dr Willis and thus would no longer be staying at the palace; this is evident as Dr Willis no longer appeared in the Royal Menu. [2]

Lady Elizabeth Waldegrave (1760-1816)

Another guest of the Royal family was Lady Elizabeth Waldegrave (1760-1816). She was a countess and is mentioned in the Royal Menu’s in 1789. Lady Waldegrave arrived at the palace during the period where King George III was seen as being incapacitated due to mental illness during the years 1788-89. She was serving at the side of Princess Charlotte, taking on the role as the Lady of the Bedchamber. Not only this, but she was at the side of Queen Charlotte during this period, remaining loyal to her during the difficult period of the King’s illness.

A name that continuously shows up on the Royal Menu’s is that of Miss Martha Caroline Goldsworthy (1740-1816). She was the head of the princesses’ education, teaching them a range of numerous subjects; such as ‘English, Music, French, German, Geography, Dancing and Arts’. Her official title was ‘Sub-Governess to the Royal Highnesses the Princess Daughters of George the Third’. Miss Goldsworthy was therefore living with the Princess during the period of 1788-89, when the Royal Menus were written as she was educating them.

The grave of Miss Martha Caroline Goldsworthy (1740-1816)

Some of the working roles which are stated in the Royal Menus include Footmen, King’s and Queen’s Grooms, servants, Equerries and Pages. They all took key working roles within the royal Household and were noblemen. Firstly taking a look at Equerries, they were an officer and nobles which were in charge of the stables of the Royal family members and to attend to the King whenever it was required. The roles of the Footmen were that of domestic workers, they had numerous roles to complete for the Royal family; some roles would include making sure their meals were served and running errands.

Another nobleman role was of the ‘Grooms’, who are also known as the ‘Groom of the Stool’; this role was to make sure that the King’s and Queen’s bowels were monitored and assisted. King George III in fact had hired the most Grooms throughout his time as King!

The Royal household had many guests and workers, with guests during this time period of the King’s madness were there to take care of the royal family. Lady Waldegrave and Miss Goldsworthy were there to help take care of the Princesses, while Dr. Willis was present to take care of the King. The workers that are present in the Royal Menus had to make sure that the King and Queen were being served, fed and taken care of. The Royal Menus were in place to control the food that was being made daily in the household, being written by the Clerk of the Kitchen who had to make sure that the food being made would feed everyone at the palace. If you want to find out more about the Royal Menu’s check out our other blog posts! Learn more about Dr.Willis here.  

[1]LS9-226_0021, Royal Menu

[2]John M.S. Pearce,. The Role of Dr.Francis Willis in the Madness of George III (Department of Neurology Hull, 17 Dec 2017), pp. 196-7.

A King, A Court, A Banquet and Menu: An Introduction.

Whilst our handle, Just Georgian Things, may allude to all things relating to the Georgian period, for the next couple of weeks or so, we will be focusing on the time during the reign of King George III. In particular, the relationship between the king’s personal life and health and food but also how important food was during the period in general and how we can analyse this best through his reign. Whilst it may seem a strange comparison to make, when looking at the food that graced the royal tables, it is important to examine the driving force behind their presence as well as understand how George as a person, influenced George as a King and consequently a host to those were invited to dine in the royal palace at Kew.

George William Frederick, as he was publicly baptised on the 21 June 1738, ruled as the King of the United Kingdom and Ireland from 1760 until his death in 1820. He was married to Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz in 1761 and together, they had fifteen children – their first-born son the future king of England, George IV.[1] For the most part, George enjoyed a quiet and private life, much like his wife Charlotte which meant that his reign was free from the scandals of mistresses and court intrigue.

George with Princess Charlotte and 6 of their
children, 1771. Royal Collection Trust. RCIN 604687.

So, what does come to mind when considering George’s reign? Most monarchies are remembered for something whether that be political gain, exploration, outspoken views or the eradication of certain practises etc. but George is somewhat different in his legacy. Numerous things ailed the king, from political struggles in the Americas to the tragedies and scandals that plagued his siblings, yet he is most widely known for something more personal – his health – and that in large, dictated the types of food and drink present in the dining room as well as defined him for future generations.[2]

Whilst his health will be discussed in greater detail in future blogs, as it encompasses a wide range of topics, it is important to note that it will be heavy focus and played a great role in both the foods that he ate, the pastimes he enjoyed and the way in which he was viewed both by nobility and the laity. In relation to his health, we will be exploring how public perceptions of his health were shaped by his treatment and how these related to the foods that graced the royal table as well as discussing the issue of retrospective diagnosis as his illness was not identified before his death.

Alternatively, we will also be examining and analysing documents from the Kew Ledger – a series of menus in which the year 1789 will be our focus. [3] It is through these menus that we will endeavour to explore the day to day life of the king in relation to food, by transcribing their contents and analysing our findings by taking certain aspects such as locations or suppliers to determine how food was organised and sourced in the Georgian period. We will also be examining the kitchens in which the food was prepared, alongside the people who prepared it and taking a closer look at how important and special occasions such as Christmas were organised.

Grocery Delivery List. Kew Ledger.

Over the next two weeks or so, we aim to explore all of this and more, to try and gain an understanding of not only the importance of food but also the organisation of the household and dining table whilst analysing the king’s personal life and reputation to see the hand he played in the organisation of food at his court.


[1] John Cannon, George III (2013), <https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/10540> [date accessed 12 April 2019]

[2] John Cannon, George III (2013), <https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/10540>
[date accessed 12 April 2019]

[3] The National Archives, The Kew Ledger, LS 9/226, 1788 Dec-1801 May.

Weather Forecasting: An English Virtue

Meteorology: the seasons, autumn. Engraving by A. Collaert . Credit: Wellcome Collection.

One of the readings from our class’s seminar caught my attention as an exciting topic to observe from the perspective of an early modern household. The suggested reading was a chapter within the first book of The English Husbandman (1635) by the prolific writer on domestic advice, Gervase Markham. As you can probably guess from the title, the chapter was regarding, ‘… other vertues, as namely how he shall judge and foreknow all kinde of weather and other seasons of the yeare.’ The reason it was of interest was due to the lack of consideration I had placed on weather and seasonal predictions with its specific relevance to the household, before this source. The revelations described by Markham and my own personal curiosity have led me to comment on why this ‘skill’ was something husbandmen would aim to possess.

Defining the fore-telling of the seasons and weather as a ‘vertue’ and devoting a whole chapter to this skill shows the importance Markham placed upon a man’s ability to know the future climate. Initially, this seemed strange, referring to weather watching and season prediction as a virtue in early modern England. I presumed the accuracy and belief in weather prediction would have been minimal in a society which had yet to enter the period of scientific enlightenment. However, the specific instructions Markham presents to predict weather and seasons suggests that ordinary husbandmen had some investment in these beliefs which to the modern reader appear incredibly abstract. It required the husbandman to be in tune with the natural world around him, relying on cues in the environment.

The English Husbandman (1635) p. 19.

One method which was used before the emergence of the barometer in the late 17th Century was natural astrological theory, judging the weather by looking at the celestial bodies.[1] These movements and the weather produced from them were believed to be directly linked to human physiology.[2] The renaissance revival in the humoral theory connected the weather conditions and more specifically astrology to effects on bodily fluids.[3]This mirroring was a key aspect of Markham’s weather and season predictions. The latter part of the chapter concerns the reactions a husbandman should have to the prediction of a poor year in health, rather than solely foretelling weather as the title suggests, Markham integrates monthly medical intervention with general observations which impacted on agricultural wealth. (See example above)

The other technique which Markham gives the husbandman for long term weather forecasting was using the weather experienced during the first twelve days of Christmas as a guide to the weather over the whole year, each day corresponding to each month. This was a conventional technique used in Western Europe, although the first day of observations varied regionally, with some nations choosing the New Year to mark the monthly weather.[4] This would have been a simple way for a husbandman to predict monthly weather patterns. It would have been more accessible to the ordinary man compared to the astrological practices which could be sophisticated and require calculations.[5] Nonetheless, the visible celestial changes such as moon phases and eclipses were expected to be observed under Markham’s instruction. This popular astrology could indirectly influence mortality through the weather changes; it was advisable to take note.

The English Husbandman (1635) p. 16.

Agricultural society in this period was vulnerable to adverse weather conditions, extremes in seasons could result in reduced crop yields, and traditional farming methods did not have a way to protect against these or absorb the losses adequately. Knowledge of weather would have been useful for planning, to prevent or promote the available farming methods. A good understanding of weather would lay the foundation for successful agricultural practices and allow the husbandman to hone his skills on the later parts of the book, such as planting, grafting and harvesting.

The majority of the advice given seems extremely rational and practical for the English husbandman, such when to expect ‘good yeares’ by observing where frosts fell, and plants bloomed at certain times during the year.

A woodcut representing one month from the peotry work by Edmund Spenser, “The shepheards calender : conteining twelue æglogues proportionable to the twelue monthes : entituled, to the noble and vertuous gentleman, most worthie of all titles, both of learning and chiualry, Maister Philip Sidney” (London, 1591) p.55. Credit: Internet Archive Book Images

Ordinary early modern families were reliant upon favourable weather conditions to ensure they avoided spells of dearth and famine. Weather could, therefore, be something which determined life and death for many communities. Knowledge of weather and changes of the season’s patterns and adapting to future weather would have been extremely desirable in this period. Finding ways to harness the natural world would give the husbandman some feeling of control. In times when people were susceptible to serious illness having some forward knowledge on the health of your family to plan for sickness would have been beneficial, even if the source of such knowledge was questionable. In hindsight, the importance Markham places on weather knowledge is reasonable; we take accurate weather forecasting for granted in the modern world.

Luckily the stakes are not as high in today’s society. Nonetheless, it is interesting to see the importance of weather prediction in this period. Perhaps the fact that some of these weather beliefs still exist shows how ingrained the confidence in personal weather forecasting is in the English psyche.

[1] Jan Golinski, ‘Barometers of Change: Meteorological Instruments as Machines of Enlightenment’ in William Clark, Jan Golinski and Simon Schaffer (eds.), The Science of enlightened Europe (Chicago, 1999), p. 82.

[2]Patrick Curry, Prophecy and Power: Astrology in Early Modern England (Princeton, 1989), p. 23.

[3]Golinski, ‘Barometers of Change’, p. 70.

[4] Stephen Wilson, The Magical Universe: everyday ritual and magic in premodern Europe (London, 2000), p. 53.

[5]Curry, Prophecy and Power, p. 11.