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.

Cite this blog post
lucypyner (2019, May 9). A Spoon of Glucose A Day Keeps the Frugal Eating Habits at Bay! George III and his preferred menu. The Digital Recipe Books Project. Retrieved June 20, 2024, from https://doi.org/10.58079/nwh4

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

  1. It’s really interesting to think about how King George III thought of his political portrait in his food selection. Especially with the connection between sugar and attitudes toward slavery.
    Were there any other food items highlighted by the press that King George and his family did or did not indulge in?

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