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The Food of Queen Victoria’s Court

She was most particular about the type and number of dishes that were served.

Queen Victoria was the longest-reigning English monarch up until Queen Elizabeth II broke her 64-year record in 2016. She was known as a woman who didn’t suffer fools gladly and had a particular way of doing things that she would not be swayed from. She had predestined ideas about her children and was ill-tempered if they defied her image of them. The petite monarch also had strict ideas on what made up ladylike behavior, from shunning makeup to mourning her husband from his death in 1861 until her death in 1901. These hard and fast routines were also very apparent in how she had her meals served and which foods were favored by Her Royal Highness.

late 19th century card de visite of Queen Victoria
Via/ Flickr

Breakfasts at the royal household were quite large and included dishes like bacon and eggs, bloaters (cold-smoked herring), chicken, pork chops, cutlets, sausages, and/or steak with mushrooms. Lunch was served 4 hours after the large breakfasts.

The queen was partial to rich foods, but also had a love of fresh fruit. She often ate a single, large apple at the end of her evening meal, as well as a dessert.

19th century lithograph of fruit
Via/ Flickr

She also enjoyed orange juice. The orange would be served to her with a small hole in the rind at one end and a spoon. She would then spoon out small servings of juice at a time, leaving the flesh inside the orange. This was considered the ladylike way to “eat” an orange in the 1800s, though many average people would never have had enough money to buy a food so rare and exotic in those days.

Breakfast and dinner were late and the whole court had to follow her rules and timings on meals. Queen Victoria was said to be a fast eater and since everyone else’s plate was removed once the queen was done with hers, some court members recalled that they scarcely ever got to finish their plates.

roast beef and vegetables on a white plate
Via/ Unsplash

As a child she lived under the “Kensington system” wherein her mother kept her confined at Kensington Palace, with few visitors, a structured routine, and strict control of her food intake. The young Victoria was often served bland, stingy meals like bread and milk. Consequently, she vowed to eat as much rich food as she pleased when she grew up, a promise she kept in earnest once she was queen.

Portrait of the queen at age 4
Portrait of the queen at age 4. Via/ Wiki Commons

The queen was known for her lavish meals, which often stretched to 8 or 10 courses for lunch or dinner. One of the most incredible dishes served at her court was raized pie. This was a turkey stuffed with a chicken stuffed with a pheasant which was then itself stuffed with mushrooms! Basically, Queen Victoria was regularly serving the original turducken at her table- minus the duck of course.

Appetizers were not common in Europe until the end of the Victorian era and the queen was not known for serving them. There would, however, be savories and water ices (like Italian ices) served in between the many courses as palette cleansers.

roast turkey on platter
Via/ iStock

A Balmoral menu from before 1887 (when the queen’s monograms changed to include her title as empress of India) offers some insight into what she ate.

The menu included 2 soups, 2 kinds of fish, 2 entrées, as well as roast chicken, quail and beef, and 3 types of dessert. In case anyone was still hungry the side table was filled with cold beef and assorted fowl just to round out the meal!

Balmoral Castle on a sunny day
Via/ Wiki Commons

As if the many courses of food weren’t stimulating enough, Queen Victoria was also quite fond of the bagpipes she and Albert heard on their visit to Taymouth Castle in 1842, and insisted on having them played before each meal that was served at Balmoral.