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


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