Exclusive insider's guide: 60 royal foodie facts for 60 years of HRH
What does the Queen like for her brekkie? What's her favourite tipple? And does she love or hate Marmite? Christopher Hirst finds out...
1. A peek into the Queen's breakfast preferences comes from an unexpected source. The Duke of Edinburgh's painting The Queen at Breakfast, Windsor Castle (1965) was published for the first time two years ago. Though hazy in detail – a generous critic might call it "impressionistic" – it is possible to discern a marmalade jar with a white label. Likely contenders are Frank Cooper's Oxford or Tiptree "Tawny". Both companies hold a Royal Warrant.
2. More revelations of the monarch's breakfast came from the "Tupperware" snaps taken by an undercover reporter posing as a Buckingham Palace footman in 2003. Along with marmalade, both dark and light (Tiptree "No Peel"?), they show yoghurt, porridge and cornflakes in Tupperware containers. Kellogg's, Quaker Oats and Dairy Crest all have Royal Warrants; Tupperware does not.
3. Marmite has produced a special edition called Ma'amite for the Jubilee. "We wanted to pay a fitting tribute to the Queen – from one British institution to another," said marketing manager Nicola Waymark. "We just hope ma'am loves it." With a label featuring a crown and a Union Jack, the celebratory jar appears on posters flanked by corgis and the line, "One either loves it or one hates it."
4. Judging by her breakfast table, HM falls into the "hate" camp, though in his book Eating Royally, former royal chef Darren McGrady includes ¼ tsp of Marmite in his recipe for a dish called Gaelic steaks. "It's a favourite of the Duke of Edinburgh, who would have it on the menu every day if he had his way."
5. Two Royal Warrant holders have joined forces to produce an economical and nutritious souvenir of the Diamond Jubilee. Fortnum & Mason is selling tins of Heinz Baked Beans with a 1952 label. However, there is no indication that HM indulges in baked beans at breakfast or, indeed, at any other time.
6. A barbecue obsessive, the Duke of Edinburgh was shown grilling steaks at Balmoral on a griddle of his own designin Richard Cawston's 1969 documentary The Royal Family. The film, however, was withdrawn from public view for four decades, though Buckingham Palace has allowed 90 seconds to be included in the National Portrait Gallery exhibition The Queen: Art and Image.
7. The 1960s stalwart Steak Diane is a barbecue favourite of the Duke. "We would prepare the ingredients... and send it all to the barbecue site in Tupperware boxes," writes McGrady – though the recipient sometimes added his own k brand of ducal pepper. "The contents of each container were labelled, at least in theory. Occasionally a label was missing and believe me, we all heard about it from the Duke the next day."
8. The Queen washes up after the barbecue. Fairy Liquid bears the Royal Arms though the Marigold gloves she always wears for the task do not. Princess Diana used to be co-opted to join in the washing-up fun. "It was not her favourite way to pass an evening," notes McGrady.
9. Of the game shot at Balmoral, "The Duke would have us marinate the finer cuts... and he would barbecue them in the evening. Second-class joints would be cut up for stews and served during the next shooting lunch. Third-class joints would be sent to the village butcher to grind up for sausages and also later barbecued."
10. In his 2011 biography The Diamond Queen, Andrew Marr states, "All her life she has preferred simple food to fancy and the odd Dubonnet and gin to fine wine." This was supported in a recent remark by the Duchess of Cornwall: "I think she likes things very plain, nothing too complicated." Hence the warrants bestowed on Ryvita, Walker's Shortbread and HP Sauce.
11. In the book Dinner at Buckingham Palace, which draws on the recipes of Charles Oliver, who "worked at [the Palace] from the reign of Queen Victoria to that of the present Queen", we learn that, "The Queen has a soft spot for sausages and has frequently been known to choose sausages in preference to suggested dishes." At least three sausage manufacturers hold warrants.
12. Musk's Newmarket sausages, awarded four Royal Warrants since 1907, are delivered weekly when the family is at Sandringham. Made from a 120-year-old recipe, they are made of pork shoulder (75 per cent) and bread.
13. Newmarket sausages (£2.95 for six) are among the royal consumables we can all afford. As Andy Warhol said, "A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking." Coca-Cola International has a Royal Warrant as "Suppliers of Soft Drinks".
14. Buckingham Palace has a brigade of 20 chefs. "If the Queen is in residence, there are usually around 10 chefs on duty," writes McGrady. "Not that she needs 10 chefs to cook for her..."
15. According to a 2009 report in The Daily Telegraph, the Queen is "very much a creature of habit. Every day, she likes a gin and Dubonnet immediately before lunch, and tea and biscuits at about 5pm. 'But most of the biscuits go to the corgis,' reveals an aide."
16. Earl Grey is the tea of preference at Buckingham Palace.
17. The slightest suggestion of chagrin is perceptible in McGrady's introduction to a recipe for Royal Tea Scones: "Scones were part of the Queen's daily tea service... I suspect she didn't actually like the scones. I say that because she never, ever ate them. Instead, the Queen would take a scone and crumble it on to the floor for the corgis..." According to one guest, the scones served at Buckingham Palace tea parties "are tiny – the size of a 50p. But you can have as many as you like."
18. The Queen's approach to cheese soufflé: "She would drive a spoon straight down the middle and pour fresh cream right in."
19. Reading McGrady's book, the main surprise is that the Royal Family has remained so enviably slender. His vanilla ice-cream includes double cream and clotted cream, while his mash requires 4 tbsp of butter for 2lb of potatoes.
20. The explanation for our svelte royals is partly unceasing activity but mostly restraint. On the sole occasion I lunched with the Duke of Edinburgh, with around 500 others in the Royal Festival Hall, he consumed, as far as I could see, nothing whatsoever.
21. The medieval catering arrangements at Buckingham Palace may hinder the urge to snack. "If Prince Edward wants scrambled eggs on toast," writes McGrady, "the footman picks up the eggs in the royal kitchen then 100 yards down the corridor has to pick up toast made in the coffee-room kitchen."
22. Heston Blumenthal has devised an updated version of coronation chicken for the 13,000 guests attending the Queen's Diamond Jubilee concert at Buckingham Palace tomorrow. Coronation chicken is "just the ultimate curry", he announced. However, the original version devised by Constance Spry and Rosemary Hume was "distinguished mainly by a delicate and nut-like flavour", according to The Constance Spry Cookery Book. "I doubt if many of the 300-odd guests at the coronation luncheon detected curry."
23. The Queen did not eat coronation chicken at the Buckingham Palace banquet following her coronation. The dish was served to 350 foreign guests in Westminster School.
24. The 40 companies holding Royal Warrants to supply beverages include eight champagne houses (Pol Roger irrigated the wedding of Kate and Wills, while a single glass of Moët & Chandon will be offered to guests at tomorrow's picnic), HP Bulmer and GlaxoSmithKline ("suppliers of Lucozade").
25. Prince Charles apparently retains a taste for the curious liqueur that got him into hot water at school. Shepherd Neame holds his warrant as "Supplier of Cherry Brandy". The Prince favours the brand Grant's Morella while his mother's warrant goes to Cherry Heering.
26. The Queen's favourite, Dubonnet Cocktail, also known as the Zaza, comprises equal quantities Dubonnet and gin poured over ice in a beaker and garnished with lemon peel. Curiously, the brand owner Pernod-Ricard does not hold a Royal Warrant.
27. A sweet, spicy aperitif, Dubonnet was advertised on TV early in the Queen's reign by horse-faced French comic Fernandel: "Do 'ave a Du-Bonn-Ay." However, HM is more likely to have inherited the taste for Dubonnet Cocktails from her mother.
28. The warrant awarded to Bacardi-Martini ("Suppliers of Martini Vermouth") once caused anguish to the Queen Mother when she asked a servant for a Martini. Instead of the cocktail, she received a glass of warm vermouth. Since the American journalist RW Apple happened to be present, she addressed him, "Young man. I believe you're American from your accent. Do you know how to make a Martini cocktail?" "Yes, ma'am. I certainly do." "Please will you go to the pantry with the butler and instruct him how to do so." The resulting 11:1 Martini (proportion of gin to vermouth) went down so well that the QM "drank them all through dinner".
29. Among the smaller (and most delicious) Royal Warrant holders are Charles Martell & Sons (five full-time staff) of Hunts Court, Gloucestershire, whose Double Gloucester cheese goes to Prince Charles, and James Baxter & Son of Morecambe, Lancashire, "Purveyors of Potted Shrimps" to the Queen.
30. Claims Dinner at Buckingham Palace, Her Majesty is "a specialist when it comes to eggs, and is one of many who insist that, whatever nutrition experts might say, a brown egg tastes better".
31. How HM likes her eggs in the morning: "Scambled and fried are her preferences, but she also enjoys omelettes, poached eggs... and just plain boiled." The royal breakfast dish oeufs en cocotte a la crème with minced chicken brings to mind the Chinese k chicken-and-egg dish that inspired Paul Simon's "Mother and Child Reunion".
32. The warrant held by Nestlé UK does not specify any particular products, but McGrady spills the beans when he includes Gold Blend in a list of items to be packed for royal weekends at Windsor Castle. This does not mean that HM's preference for "plain and simple" runs to instant coffee; Gold Blend is used in the favourite royal pud of coffee mousse.
33. Describing his dessert of brandy-snap cornets filled with ice-cream, McGrady ponders, "I think that is the closest the Queen ever came to eating ice-cream out of a cone."
34. From Dinner at Buckingham Palace: the Queen uses a daily menu book for comments on meals. "I found this in the salad – could you eat it?" she wrote one day alongside "the dead body of a slug". Usually the page remains blank as "the Queen is not fussy about food".
35. The Duke contributes his astute assessments of wine. "If Prince Philip especially likes a wine, he will write on the bottle label 'Good' or 'Very Good'."
36. Companies must have supplied one of the royals who grant warrants (currently the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and the Prince of Wales) for five years before they can apply for one. Among the latest to be granted a warrant is Maldon Salt Company, which is also marking "130 years of salt production".
37. Royal Warrants are reviewed every four years. They are rarely withdrawn (which explains the 800-plus warrant holders), though Guinness lost its warrant in 1995. The brand owner Diageo arranged for HM to pull a pint of the black stuff on her recent trip to Dublin but she did not touch a drop.
38. Harrods held Royal Warrants from 1910 to 2000, when the then-owner Mohamed al-Fayed removed the four massive Royal Arms (the Queen Mother was still alive at the time) from the store's exterior. Claiming they "brought bad luck", he burnt them in 2009.
39. One of the more exotic locations for the Royal Arms is a sultry coastal community on the Gulf Coast of Louisiana. Avery Island is home to the McIlhenny Company, which produces more than 700,000 57ml bottles of Tabasco every day in a picturesque factory shadowed by trees draped in Spanish moss. The fiery condiment received a Royal Warrant in 2009.
40. Since Lea & Perrins also has a warrant, it is now possible to make a royal version of the tomato drink named after a previous monarch.
41. The Queen's afternoon sarnies are "sliced very thinly and cut into squares with the corners trimmed off to create a kind of octagon". When Darren McCready asked the reason for this curious waste, a fellow chef told him that "a square or rectangular sandwich looked too much like a coffin and it meant you wished the Queen ill".
42. The inclusion of Renshaw Napier ("Purveyors of Almond Products") among warrant holders seems curious until you learn "we are also a leading manufacturer of marzipan". Whitworths ("Manufacturers of Provisions & Dried Fruit") also contributes to royal cakes.
43. For rationing reasons, the cake for the 1947 wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten RN used "ingredients given as a wedding present by the Australian Girl Guides". The cake was baked by McVitie & Price.
44. Sixty-five years on, the McVitie connection continues with chocolate biscuit cake, "without a doubt, the Queen's favourite tea cake". It contains 8oz McVitie's Rich Tea biscuits and 4oz of dark chocolate and is topped with another 8oz of dark chocolate.
45. A partiality for Chocolate Oliver biscuits was shared by the Queen Mother and John Lennon.
46. Her Majesty's soft centre for chocolate is reflected in the warrants held by Bendicks, Charbonnel et Walker and Prestat, though royal sales plummet in the 40 days before Easter, when the Queen abstains for Lent.
47. Applicants for a warrant to the Prince of Wales have to complete an environmental questionnaire. One firm that emerged smelling of roses, or at least mushrooms, was Carluccio's ("Supplier of Italian Food and Truffles"). Founder Antonio Carluccio was once invited by Prince Charles to explore for fungi at Balmoral.
48. The result was "an absolute treasure trove of mushrooms", though the Prince's plan to collar the estate's porcini was scuppered by the Queen's head chef, who "organized mushroom raids across the estate before Prince Charles's entourage arrived at Balmoral".
49. Doubtless Prince Philip instantly whipped up his own recipe for mushrooms a la crème (included in Dinner at Buckingham Palace). Slice 1lb of mushrooms and simmer in 2oz of butter for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with 2oz of flour and cook for 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, add heated milk (amount unspecified – presumably a princely splash) and simmer for 3 minutes. Stir in 2 tbsp of cream, reheat and serve scattered with croutons of fried bread.
50. If you're puzzling over a Diamond Jubilee present for HM, a tip can be found in McGrady's account of Christmas at Sandringham: "Friends know that the Windsors are always happy to receive gifts of food and drink."
51. A modest gift of port and Stilton is likely to be overwhelmed, however. The Sultan of Brunei "would send over an enormous Fortnum & Mason hamper filled with crystalised fruits, hams, cheeses and biscuits... Harrods always sent an enormous hamper that faithfully contained a paté de foie gras en croute."
52. The inclusion of Sara Lee All-Butter Pound Cake in McGrady's recipe for "Traditional English Trifle" does not indicate a preference for Americana at Buck Palace. His book of "recipes and reminiscences from a palace kitchen" was only published in the US. McGrady is now a private chef in Dallas, Texas.
53. Founded in 1872, Fortune's Kippers had been perfuming Whitby with its excellent product for at least a decade by the time Count Dracula landed there in the 1880s. More recently, the company received a letter from a somewhat less scary aristocrat. Princess Anne wrote to say how much she liked their kippers.
54. In one respect at least, the Queen's uncle Edward VIII maintained royal tradition. He ordered kippers and Seville marmalade from Fortnum & Mason for his wedding breakfast in Paris.
55. Though famous names loom large among warrant holders, small shops near royal palaces form the heart of the list, including: George Strachan, general merchants of Deeside ("grocery, DIY, hardware, newspapers, chocolate..."); Smiths the Bakers of London Road, King's Lynn; HM Sheridan, butchers of Ballater, Aberdeenshire; and HR Higgins (Coffee-Man) of Duke Street, London.
56. This proximity also applies to the supermarket Waitrose, whose Windsor branch is virtually next door to the castle. Very handy for Duchy Originals.
57. Like her subjects, the Queen is turning to mail order. Leading mail-order butcher Donald Russell is a "Supplier of Meat and Poultry". Perhaps she relishes the excellent Carvery Rib Roast (£64).
58. Surprisingly, the main lubricant of London's summer season only received a warrant last year. Pimm's has yet to install the Royal Arms on its label, though for many years a stylised crown has indicated an informal royal association.
59. Along with 1,500 others, I attended the Royal Warrant Holders Golden Jubilee Ball a decade ago. It proved to be a surreal experience. Decked in white tie, we sat down to an orchestral accompaniment of "Zadok the Priest", consumed fillet of beef to a version of "Greensleeves" trilled by counter-tenors and polished off Drambuie parfait while acrobats whirled a few feet above our heads.
60. A few overlooked products that merit a Royal Warrant: Geeta's Mango Chutney; Montgomery Cheddar; Opie's Pickled Walnuts; Café Direct Machu Picchu coffee; Lincolnshire Poacher cheese; Richardson's Smokehouse, Orford, Suffolk; Somerset Cider Brandy; Mr Trotter's Pork Crackling.
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