Monday, 14 October 2013

The coronation feast of James II and Queen Mary

One of the many printed books contained in the Cathedral library is a lavishly illustrated account of the coronation of James II and Queen Mary, which took place on Tuesday 23rd April, 1685.

This book was commissioned to commemorate James II's coronation and was given to his Majesty as a gift upon his visit to Worcester in 1687. It is a very detailed account of the preparations for the occasion; a description of the clothing, robes, crowns and sceptres, personnel, seating arrangements and menus for the day. As this is a very precise (and lengthy) account of the ceremony, I have chosen to discuss the coronation feast and menu, which visitors to the library often express interest in.

Below is an exquisite engraving depicting the feast in Westminster Hall, in which you can see the Lords and Ladies tucking into an array of foods, as well as the servers located at the sides of the halls.
James II's coronation feast (1685). Photograph reproduced by the permission of the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (U.K.).
Their Majesties table alone is described as containing "99 dishes of the most excellent and choicest of all sorts of cold meats, both flesh and fish, excellently well dressed and ordered all manner of ways, [...] brought up by the gentlemen who served at their majesties cupboards." The engraving certainly conveys the author's point that there was "little vacancy between the dishes, which were set upon stands of several heights, and all so equally mixed, that it made an extraordinary good appearance”. At feasts or banquets today, a table is rarely as fully laden with dishes as we see here. This coronation feast makes Christmas dinner look like a light snack!
Another engraving, pictured below, depicts the table layout of the 145 dishes served at the table of King James and Queen Mary. The King's table was located at the upper end of Westminster Hall.You can see that each dish has a small number on it. Below is a list of the dishes to which each number corresponds. Besides these 145 dishes, there were 30 more served up to their Majesties table at the second course, making 175 dishes in all…!!! 

We'd love it if you could pick your favourite item and tell us which dish, if you could, you would order as part of your coronation dinner.

Table of dishes corresponding with numbers below. Photograph reproduced by the permission of the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (U.K.)

The dishes served at the table of King James and Queen Mary:
1.Pistacio cream in glasses.                            
2.Anchoviz (anchovies)                                          
3.Custards        )                                                         
4.Collar Veal    )  Cold
5.Lamb – stones
6.Cocks-combs  )
7.Marrow patie  )  Hot
8.Jelly   )
9.Sallet )   Cold
10.Stags tongues.
12.Patty pidgeon.
14.Cray Fish.
15.Blumange              )      
16.Bolonia Sausages  )  Cold
17.Collops and Eggs.
18.Frigase Chick   )
19.Rabbets Ragou )  Hot
20.Oysters pickled  )
21.Portugal Eggs    )  Cold
22Dutch Beef         )
24.Mushrooms  )
25.Veal              )  Hot
26.Hogs tongues  )
27.Cheese cakes  )  Cold
28.Ciprus Birds.
30.Asparagus  )
31.A Pudding  )  Hot
32.Ragou of Oysters  )
33.Scallops                )  Cold
35.Three dozen glasses of lemon Jelly.
36.Five Neats Tongues  (Cold).
37.Four dozen wild Pidgeons,12 larded, (Hot).
38.A whole Salmon  (Cold).
39.Eight Pheasants,3 larded  (Cold).
40.Nine small Pidgeon Pies  (Cold).
41.Twenty Four fat Chickens,6 larded  (Hot).
42.Twelve Crabs  (Cold).
43.Twenty Four Partridges,6 larded, (Hot).
44.A dish of tarts.
45.Soles marinetted, (Cold).
46.Twenty Four Tame Pidgeons,6 larded, (Hot)
47.Four Fawns,2 larded, (Hot).
48.Four Pullets La Dobe.           )  
49.Twelve Quails                       )  (Hot)           
50.Four Partridges – Halved      )
51.Ten Oyster Pies, (Hot)                                                 
54.Four Dozen of Puddings,(Hot)
56.Beef a La Royal, (Hot).
57.An Oglio, (Hot).
59.A Batalia Pie
62.Three Turkeys a La Royal, (Hot).
63.Four Chicks        )     
64.Bacon Gammon  ) (Hot).
65.Spinage               )
66.Three Piggs (Hot)
67.Almond Puff.
68.Twelve Stump Pies, (Cold).
69.A square pyramide, rising from four large dishes on the angles, and four  lesser dishes on the sides, containing the several fruits in season, and all manner of sweet-meats.
70.A whole Lamb, larded, (Hot).
71.Twelve Ruffs.
72.Four dozen Egg –Pies, (Cold).
73.A very large circular pyramide in the middle of the table, rising from twelve dishes in the circumference, six of which were large, and the others six less, containing the several fruits in season, and all manner of sweet-meats.
74.Six Mullets, large souc’d.
75.Eight Godwits.
76.Eight Neats Tongues and Udders roasted, (Hot).
77.A square pyramide, rising from four large dishes on the angles, and four lesser on the sides, containing the several fruits in season, and all manner of sweet-meats.
78.Eighteen Minc’d Pies, (Cold).
79.Marrow Tofts.
80.Eight wild Ducks, marinated, (Hot).
81.Gooseberry Tarts   )
82.Lampreys               ) (Cold).
83.Shrimps                  )
84.Twenty Four Puffins, (Cold).
87Four Dozen of Petit-Paties, (Hot).
89.Five Carps, (Cold).
90.Blewmange in shells, (Cold)
92.Four Dozen of Almond Puddings, (Hot).
94.Eight Ortelans.
95.Lamb Sallet, (Cold).

96.Five Partridge Pies    )
97.Smelts marinated       )  (Cold) Moil              )
99.Eighteen Turkey Chicks, six larded, (Hot).
100.Twelve Lobsters, (Cold).
101.Nine Pullets, for larded, (Hot).
102.Bacon,two Gammons, (Cold).
103.Twelve Leverets, four larded, (Hot).
104,Sturgeon, (Cold).
105.Twenty Four Ducklings, six larded, (Hot).
106.Collar’d Beef, (Cold).
107.Eight Capons, three larded, (Hot).
108.Five Pullet Pies, (Cold).
109.Eight Geese, three larded, (Hot).
110.Three souc’d Pigs, (Cold).
111.Three Dozen glasses of Jelly.
112.Botargo            )
113.Gerkins            ) (Cold)     
114.Souc’d Trout   )
115.Sheeps Tongues.      )
116.Skirrets                     )  (Hot)
117.Cabbadge Pudding   )
118.Eight Teals Marin    )
119.French Beans           )  (Cold).
120.Leveret Pie               )
121.Lemon Sallet          )
122.Smelts Pickled        )  (Cold).
123.Periwinkles             )
124.Chicks marl’d     )
125.Cavear                 ) (Cold)
126.Olives                  )
127.Prawns            )
128.Samphire         )  (Cold)
129.Trotter Pie       )
130.Taffata Tarts     )
131.Razor Fish        )  (Cold)
132.Broom Buds     )
133.Collar’d Pigs.
134.Parmazan   )
135.Capers       )  (Cold).
136.Spinage Tart.
137.Whitings marinated   )
138.Cockles                      )  (Cold).
139.Pickled Mushrooms  )
140.Prawns                      )  (Cold).
141.Mangoes                   )
142.Bacon Pie           )
143.Cardoons            )  (Cold)
144.Souc’d Tench     )
145.Three Dozen Glasses of Blumange, (Cold).

As you can see, many of the items are familiar to us to-day, although some, if not many, have gone out of fashion. Others are not so recognizable. All in all this was not a table for the faint hearted….!!!

Clarification of a number of the menu items may well be required. I hope that the following will help with this; if some are wrong then please feel free to advise the correct explanation.

There is also a record, of the dishes served at the other  tables. They do differ in some cases to that of their Majesties, but in general they are a large number of common dishes.
Some spellings are different to what we are familiar with now, and these I have left in their traditional form.
The more, possibly obscure items, I have attempted to translate;

Item 4: Collar Veal – Meat that is rolled up and tied with string, also to cut up and press into a roll.
Item 5: Lambs-stones  (Testicles)
Item 6: Cocks-combs  - the red fleshy crest on the head of the domestic fowl.
Item 7: Marrow Patie – (Bone Marrow pate.)                                   
Item 9: Sallet – (Salad.)
Item 11: Sweet-breads – (the pancreas or thymus gland of an animal – heart, stomach, belly, throat, gullet or neck, - looked upon as a delicacy.)
Item 13: Petty –toes  (pigs feet).
Item 17: Collops and Eggs  (an egg fried on bacon).
Item 21: Portugal Eggs  (egg tart pastry, similar to custard tart).
Item 23: Andolioes  (ANDOLIANS – the guts of a hog, cooked with salt, pepper, cloves, mace and coriander).
Item 28: Ciprus Birds  (Preserved Fig Peckers-Beccafico – considered a dainty when it was fattened on figs and grapes)
Item 29: Tansy  (a pudding, omelette, or the like, flavoured with juice of tansy (an Herbaceous plant).
Item 34: Salamagundy (a type of salad, made with lettuce, finely chopped chicken and anchovies, garnished with small poached onions and scalded grapes.)
Item 36: Neats Tongues  (an Ox or Bullock,a Cow or Heifer).
Item 37,39,41,43,46,47,70,99,101,103,105,107 & 109  (Larded – to insert small strips of bacon into, before cooking.)
Item 48: Pullets la Dobe  (Chicken Stew)
Item 57:Oglio  (a very large stew with extensive ingredients)
Item 59:Batalia Pie  (a Fish pie)
Item 68: Stump Pies  (Mutton/Lamb Pie)  [ ]
Item 71: Ruffs  (either a small freshwater fish or a male bird of the sandpiper family)
Item 74,110,114 & 144: Souc’d  (Meat, Fish – prepared or preserved in vinegar/pickle.
Item 75: Godwits  (A type of marshland bird)
Item 79: Marrow Tofts  (Toasts)
Item 82: Lampreys (An eel like sucker fish)
Item 85:Smelts  (small fish)
Item 88: Morels  (type of mushroom)
Item 90: Blewmange: (probably a chicken meat dish served in pastry shells)
Item 94: Ortelans:  (a small bird of the bunting family: they were captured alive, force fed, then drowned in armagnac, roasted, then eaten whole, bones and all..!!).
Item 98: Turt de Moil: (a puff pastry dish containing bone marrow, butter, sweet-meats, cream, eggs, orange-flower-water and sweetened with sugar.)
Item 103: Leverets (young Hares)
Item 107: Capon  (castrated domestic cock).
Item 112: Botargo (a relish made of Mullet roe or Tunny).
Item 116: Skirrets: (a species of water parsnip).
Item 118: Teals:  (species of wild duck).
Item 128: Samphire:  (sea shore plant, growing on rocks, who’s aromatic, saline, fleshy leaves were used in pickles).
Item 130: Taffata Tart: ( was a word  applied for a cream dish i.e. a cream tart/pie).
Item 131: Razor Fish: (a mollusc having a long narrow shell like the handle of a razor).
Item 143: Cardoons:  (edible part of the artichoke).
Item 15 & 145: Blumange:  (a meat concoction)  [  ].

Item 8,35 & 111: Jelly:  (dishes of Jelly – probably refer to gelatine, flavoured with either Lemon or Orange).

by Adrian Skipp.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Monastic maladies and cures for the plague

Magazine and newspaper articles are forever telling us to stop smoking, start exercising, eat “superfoods”, cut out bread, drink less coffee and so on. This week I take a look at some late medieval dietary advice and cures for diseases scribbled by the monks of Worcester Cathedral priory in a sixteenth-century register.  These snippets on  monastic diet and medicine feature as part of the library’s current exhibition, ‘Life in a Benedictine monastery’, so be sure to call to the North and West cloisters of Worcester Cathedral to see photographs and full transcriptions.

Poster for the library's exhibition, 'Life in a Benedictine monastery', located in the north and West cloisters until October 16th 2013. Copyright © Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (U.K.)
The collection of cures and dietary advice in a sixteenth-century monastic register is a mere four folios in length, written by one scribe in middle English, dating to around 1540. At the bottom of the first of the four folios  (pictured below) is a rather amusing list of foods “which dothe hurte the eyes”. The list of foods that hurt the eyes include some obvious candidates, such as onions (a nemesis of your blogger), and garlic. The list also warns that reading immediately after supper is bad for the eyes, as is “drunkenness, lechery […] sweet wynes and thycke wynes”.

Recipes: "meates whiche hurteth the tethe", "meates ingendryng flewme", and "meates whiche dothe hurte the eyes". Photograph of AXII, fol. 166 v. Reproduced by the permission of the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (U.K.)

The thickness of wine, how watered down it should be, and the implications that this would have on health was a matter of debate in the middle ages. The Dominican General Chapter regulations from Narbonne (1243), for example, stated that the infirm and young members of the Order should only drink watered down wine. The Fransiscan Minister-Gerald of Odone was perhaps too well acquainted with the problems of consuming thick wines; he wrote in 1331 of the headaches, digestive problems, and corruption to the four humours that could be caused by drinking wine. Written in a fifteenth-century hand in the margin of a manuscript held in the Cathedral Library is the below recipe for a hangover cure, suggesting that the monks at Worcester similarly had experience of the damage potent wines could do. Titled “A medicine for drunken men”, the author advises:

“Give to him that is prone to drunkenness the lung of a sheep or a ram for meat.  Afterwards, however much he drinks, he shall feel no drunkenness.  Similarly give to him that is drunk the burnt ashes of a swallow and he shall never be drunk.  Experience says that it is certain.”

 Whilst the author claims “experience says that it is certain” that upon consuming the above a person will be cured of drunkenness, I wouldn’t recommend trying this one at home. I would recommend pizza as my preferred cure for drunkenness.
In addition to foods that damage the eyes, the sixteenth-century monastic register also contains lists of foods that hurt the teeth and engender phlegm (see above), and you can see transcriptions of these too in the current exhibition in the Cathedral’s north and west cloister.

Of particular interest to your blogger, who curated the exhibition, were the recipes on the last two of the four folios, aimed at curing specific diseases. One recipe is described as “a medcyne for the gowt”.
Gout or podagra was a common medieval ailment, linked to the overconsumption of luxury foods, sugars and beers. Given the variety of spices, meats, fish and so forth that  made up the Benedictine diet over the course of a year, it is unsurprising that the monks would have sought out a cure for gout. Here is a modernized transcription of the remedy (cat owners- BE WARNED)  

“Take good grains and sit in them up to the knees for the space of an hour and a half and then after […] dry your legs clean and for one day and knight sit your legs before the fire and after that take a wild cat’s skin and lay the flesh-side to the sore”.

Gout was similar to rheumatism in terms of pain and so sitting by a fire, warming the inflamed skin and soothing it with a soft material like cat’s skin, was probably fairly comforting to the sufferer. If anyone has knowledge of the use of catskin or other skins in medieval medicine, I’d be interested to know what the healing properties of these skins were thought to be, and to how widely they were used.  

"Yf a man be stryken w[t] the plage". Photograph of AXII, fol. 170 r. Reproduced by the permission of the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (U.K.)
Finally, the register also includes two “cures” for the plague, pictured above. Neither of the two plague cures refer to sores on the skin, nor to swellings, making it likely that they were intended to treat pneumonic plague rather than the bubonic strand of the disease. The author of the first of the plague cures is Dr. Bentley, who was the physician to King Henry VIII. The language of the instructions is typical of medieval cures, in so far as they provide rather vague measurements of quantity and time: “take a handful of sage and a handful of rue and a handful of elder leaves and a handful of red brier leaves and stamp them all together in a mortar and strain them through a linen cloth” etc. 
This first plague cure tells us that over the course of a fortnight you should drink one spoonful of the cure daily after a period of fasting. Yet somewhat worryingly, as soon as you take the first spoonful, the author kindly informs us that you will come down with a fever for the next 33 days! Apparently, things don’t get any better with this “cure” as, after you’ve taken the fifteenth and presumably final spoonful, you come down with a fever for the rest of the year.
Phew, these recipes make me rather appreciative of lemsip. If you want to find out more about these medieval recipes or read them up-close, pop into the cloisters of Worcester Cathedral where you will see them on the exhibition board entitled, “Caring for the sick”. Please leave your comments in the visitor comments book. ‘Life in a Benedictine monastery’ is free to view until the 16th of October, 09:00-17:00.