Two hundred years ago, this month, at the Royal Pavilion in Brighton, the great French chef, Antonin Carême, devised one of the grandest banquets of all time. This meal was so extraordinary that it has gone down in history as an event on a par with Tigellinus’ Roman orgy for Nero (64 A.D.), the Field of Cloth of Gold (1520) and the Medici wedding celebration in Florence (1600). However, Carême’s meal was more than just vast quantities of lavish delicacies, it was a combination of art and theatre on a scale which would seldom again be seen on the dining tables of England.
Carême’s Brighton banquet . . .
Avid readers of Regency romance novels may well have read a scene or two set in a "rookery," or, at the very least, found a reference to such a place in one or more stories. But what exactly was a rookery, how did they get their name and what was life like in such areas during our favorite period?
Rookeries during the Regency . . .
Posted in Places
Last week, I wrote about the Horse Armoury at the Tower of London. However, there were several other attractions at the Tower of London during that time which might be of interest to a Regency author. And what could be more useful to Regency authors than an actual Regency-era guidebook to the Tower of London? Such a guidebook was published two hundred years ago, this year, and a copy is available online.
The 1817 edition of An Improved History and Description of the Tower of London . . .
Not long after its construction in the Middle Ages, the Tower of London became the principal official manufactory of armour for the Kings of England, and their trusty steeds. The armourers there continued to produce armour for several centuries. When the English Kings, and their horses, left off wearing armour, the armouries in the Tower of London became first storage, and then display areas for all of that magnificent royal armour. Thus, the armour collection held and displayed in the Tower of London makes it the very first museum in Britain. When the Regency began, that museum was already more than 150 years old, and was still open to the public. It continues as a museum even to this day. One of the most popular armouries in the Tower of London during the Regency was the Horse Armoury, including its stately "Line of Kings."
The Horse Armoury and the Line of Kings during the Regency . . .
The year 1816 was the first full year of the Regency period in which the people of British Isles were able to enjoy peace. There were no ongoing conflicts in Europe, with Napoleon Bonaparte in his final exile on the faraway island of St. Helena. But the end of the war had brought widespread economic distress to Britain, which wrought great hardship on many. So did the residual effects of a powerful natural disaster which had occurred on the other side of the globe the previous year. However, there were also some significant scientific, social and cultural milestones which were achieved in this year, which did improve life in Regency England.
A glance back at the year 1816 . . .
Puddings, in their wonderfully various forms, were a uniquely English culinary invention, as was the cloth in which they eventually came to be cooked. In particular, by the Regency, most families enjoyed a Christmas pudding during their holiday meal, and those puddings were cooked in a pudding cloth. However, since the use of the pudding cloth nearly died out at the beginning of the last century, few people today are familiar with the details of that all-important pudding cloth, as would have been most Regency home-makers.
The history and use of the pudding cloth . . .
Posted in Viands
Tagged Eating, Regency
Two hundred years ago, today, Jane Austen was celebrating her forty-first birthday. Sadly, it would be the last birthday she would ever celebrate, since she would loose her battle with an unknown and debilitating illness the following summer. Though she was feeling weak, she was not completely bedridden that December of 1816, so she was also able to enjoy one of her favorite times of the year, the Christmas season, which had always been a cheerful and lively time in the Austen household. Last Christmas, I was given a gift of the book, A Jane Austen Christmas, by Carlo Devito. Today, I am reviewing that book as a way to remember some of the happy holiday seasons which Jane Austen enjoyed during her lifetime.
Some of Jane Austen’s Christmases . . .