All posts by lucypyner

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 <>

[4] Ibid.

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), <> [date accessed 12 April 2019]

[2] John Cannon, George III (2013), <>
[date accessed 12 April 2019]

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

Collecting Knowledge and Family Secrets.

In the modern world, spending time in the kitchen and developing new methods and recipes for cooking has somewhat diminished – with many preferring the sociability and immediate readiness presented by restaurants and fast-food establishments. With so much choice and a wide-range of cuisine styles, it is easy to see why but whilst we are spoilt for choice, are we depriving ourselves of the same choices and styles in our own kitchens?

Elaine Leong’s article on collecting knowledge has made me consider what culinary secrets my family may hold, if any and why such knowledge has not been passed down to me as readily as it may have been for a first-born daughter in an early modern household. Leong explains that the family worked as a collective and that no one member was exempt from contributing to the pages of what would become a family book, dedicated to food recipes and medicinal recipes for the curing or relief from ailments but also of lineage and family history. [1] Whilst I can’t imagine my parents keeping such records, as they too prefer the efficiency of modern-day dining and have the luxury of modern healthcare, I thought of my nan, who seems to always be hand-preparing food for our visits.

Upon speaking with her, I soon came to the realisation that whilst early modern households preferred the handwritten sources of knowledge, my Nan retained hers internally. When I questioned her on any potential family recipes passed down from her mother and Nan she simply replied with “It’s all in my head. I remember because I watched my mother do it so often, it just became something ingrained.” To my surprise she also told me that she had never measured anything and that written recipes, because of their reliance on measurements, were better thought of rather than written down – as by reading them, you felt restricted to follow them precisely. Instead she judges her quantities based on visual appearance – something else she attributes to watching her mother closely in the kitchen. All the recipes she then went on to give examples of tended to be those of the dessert type – puddings and cakes.

When I questioned her further on why she had never passed down the knowledge to my mother, she simply replied that it was because she didn’t need it and had never asked or showed an interest in collecting the knowledge. My mother, whilst she cooks many fresh and homey meals, does not tend to make things such as bread and puddings from scratch – which is mainly since they are so cheaply and readily available in the supermarkets pre-made. Modern-day families tend to be working families now, with each member absent from the house daily, going about work and education. When and if the entire family does reside in the same room at the same time, time is very much of the essence and so in respect of my mother’s household, there simply isn’t the time to invest so much in to baking and dessert making.

Only a few hours after the initial conversation with my Nan, I received another call from her – correcting her early notion that every recipe she had was mentally retained as she had a digitally kept version of a recipe for Irish Soda Bread passed down from my granddad’s side of the family. It had come in to her possession after a distant family member had come across the recipe in his ancestors’ collections and had transcribed it digitally to distribute to those members of the family that lived too far from him to be able to verbally communicate. Upon glancing at the recipe, I suddenly came to a realisation about my own habits of collecting information.

Whilst I have already mentioned my awareness of my Nan hand-preparing food, I personally, had never asked for her advice when preparing food, myself. The digital format of the soda bread recipe was so familiar to me that I realised that I had spent a great deal of time looking up recipes through search engines, rather than collecting it generationally and I had done so naturally and without thought. With everything so readily available via the internet and with the devices connected to the internet being so vast and numerous, I had flocked to them for the answers to my questions, rather than speaking with the people in my family. As a product of my time, I also tend to buy ready-made ingredients from the supermarket and much of my daily food is plucked from the depths of my freezer. Whilst I cannot change my past actions, glancing over the surface of the potential culinary secrets of my family has made me determined to give use to my kitchen and to make the most of the knowledge that could be available to me, if I only I could stray from the convenience of the internet and verbally and physically communicate with those around me.

[1] Elaine Leong, Collecting Knowledge for the Family: Recipes, Gender and Practical Knowledge in the Early Modern English Household (2013) <> Wiley Library Online Library <> [date accessed 28 March 2019]