Thursday, August 8, 2013

Queen Victoria's lost recipe collection

If I had more disposable income I would subscribe to more journals, as it is I confine myself to 'Slightly Foxed' and 'PPC' both are money extremely well spent (I really love the book reviews in PPC where they are not inclined to pull their punches if they don't like something, and are most inspiring when they do). In the latest PPC there is a really intriguing request for information which I'm copying here on the very remote chance that somebody somewhere might have a an answer or a clue to help unravel the mystery.

PPC were contacted by Mary Williamson from Toronto with the following enquiry: 'Over ten years ago I became intrigued by the contents of a paragraph in Roy Shipperbottom's introduction to the reissue of Elizabeth Raffald's The Experienced English Housekeeper (Southover Press, 1997). "Such were the quality and popularity of the instructions in this extraordinary book, written by a working confectioner and containing trade secrets of the day, that they were widely copied, and recipes from it are found in many family manuscript recipe books - not least one compiled by Princess (later Queen) Victoria. She entered several Raffald recipes in her own handwriting including King Solomon's Temple in Flummery, signing it Victoria." Shipperbottom doesn't give the source of his information, and because he had died before his reprint was published I inquired with the Royal Library at Windsor Castle. I was told that no such manuscript exists there.

'Just the other day I picked up my copy of Court Favourites by Elizabeth Craig (Andre Deutsch, 1953) and it seems that her collection was based on recipes in the same elusive manuscript together with another recipe manuscript that belonged to Princess, then Queen, Victoria. In her introduction Craig tells us how she acquired the recipes. It would have been around 1933 that she became acquainted with an Irishwoman who regularly dined with an 'English Princess'. At some point the Princess showed the Irishwoman "an old scrapbook which had been given to Queen Victoria when she was a young girl." It had originally belonged to Princess Charlotte, daughter of George IV. "Hand bound in vellum, with a crown stamped on every page, it was one of the most interesting volumes I have ever perused." She estimated the recipes ranged over fifty to eighty years. Another book was produced. Bound in Russian leather it contained "many recipes cut from old books and papers, alongside recipes evidently copied by Princess Victoria from some ancient, perhaps forgotten, books on domestic subjects. On the first page someone had penned 'Given to Victoria on her birthday - 1831'. The entries in the book date from 1831 to 1887."

'I have written about, and given lectures on Mrs Dalgairns and Mrs Rundell, and like many researchers would be fascinated to know whether Princess Victoria copied the recipies of my culinary heroines. Does anyone know where these two manuscript collections might be, and whether there is any likelihood that they have been digitized and made accessible? If we knew the identity of the "English princess" of 1933 it would help.'   Mary Williamson: <>   

Does anybody know anything?


  1. My first hunch would be to see if this album might be in the Harewood archives at Harewood? The Princess Royal, Countess of Harewood, lived into the 60s, and in 1933 would have been in her mid-thirties. Such a family treasure seems unlikely to have passed very far out of the family; the Princess Royal was Victoria's granddaughter.

  2. Thank you Curzon, I think that's a brilliant suggestion and will pass it on.