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. 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.
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.
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.  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.
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.