When Queen Victoria’s mother was pregnant with her, she lived in Germany; but Victoria’s father wanted her to be born in England and borrowed enough money to see that this was the case. The family moved into Kensington, which was not palatial at the time.
Victoria’s German uncle Leopold supported the family until they could survive in a new place. Victoria’s mother gradually raised enough money to renovate the kitchen at Kensington, but this did not happen from a place of any abundance.
“As with most aristocratic girls, she was educated at home, and learnt to enjoy sketching, singing and riding as her main extra-curricular activities.” from FutureLearn Here
As I read this passage, I immediately thought about the part of Pride & Prejudice, where Elizabeth is chastised because she has not been taught to draw and play the piano and sing.
[In Chapter 29, Elizabeth Bennet joins the Collins, as they visit Lady Catherine de Bourgh.”
“Do you play and sing, Miss Bennet?”
“Oh! then—some time or other we shall be happy to hear you. Our instrument is a capital one, probably superior to——You shall try it some day. Do your sisters play and sing?”
“One of them does.”
“Why did not you all learn? You ought all to have learned. The Miss Webbs all play, and their father has not so good an income as yours. Do you draw?”
“No, not at all.”
“What, none of you?”
“That is very strange. But I suppose you had no opportunity. Your mother should have taken you to town every spring for the benefit of masters.”
“My mother would have had no objection, but my father hates London.”
“Has your governess left you?”
“We never had any governess.”
“No governess! How was that possible? Five daughters brought up at home without a governess! I never heard of such a thing. Your mother must have been quite a slave to your education.”
Elizabeth could hardly help smiling as she assured her that had not been the case.
“Then, who taught you? who attended to you? Without a governess, you must have been neglected.”
“Compared with some families, I believe we were; but such of us as wished to learn never wanted the means. We were always encouraged to read, and had all the masters that were necessary. Those who chose to be idle, certainly might.”
“Aye, no doubt; but that is what a governess will prevent, and if I had known your mother, I should have advised her most strenuously to engage one. I always say that nothing is to be done in education without steady and regular instruction, and nobody but a governess can give it.”
Pride & Prejudice was published in 1813. Queen Victoria was born in 1819. Jane Austen has spelled out what would have been expected of the training of Queen Victorian, in her youth.
However, increasingly under the influence of her advisor John Conroy, the Duchess slowly implemented a set of rules and procedures which later became known as the ‘Kensington System’. The System aimed to break Victoria’s spirit as she entered adolescence, ensuring she was totally reliant on her mother (and, by default, Conroy), through complete isolation and control. She slept in her mother’s room, and had to hold her hand on the way downstairs until the day she became Queen. All decisions were made for her, often against her wishes, and, much to King William IV’s annoyance, she was kept away from court, where she might have been exposed to other influences. Even her food was limited to plain ‘nursery’ food, including bread and milk alone for breakfast.
Her only support during these years was her governess, Louisa Lehzen, who was utterly devoted to the princess, and became her ally against her mother and Conroy. …
King William IV became seriously ill in May 1837, hanging on just long enough for Victoria to turn 18 and reach her legal majority. When he died in the early hours of June 20th, Victoria was finally Queen, and able to declare her independence from her mother. She threw herself into her new role with enthusiasm, and the British public initially, adored her.
from FutureLearn Here
Victorian Kitchen ©Stafforrdsire Museum
Ruins of the Kitchen at the Palace of Kew
In the Victorian kitchen, we still see the long, central table that was at George III’s Palace of Kew.
As I mentioned before, that long kitchen table is what I most remember about the kitchen of Downton Abbey.
Downton Abbey is set during the Roaring Twenties, which is 100 years after the reign of George III, 1760 – 1820, owner of the Palace of Kew and slightly after the Victorian era, 1876 – 1901.
During the Victorian era, a number of people had returned to England after working in India, and they brought their newly discovered appetites for curry with them.
“Some brought their Indian cooks back with them, but others took advantage, either of curry houses – the first was the Hindoustanee in 1810, but there was at least one coffee house serving curry in 1773 – or of the commercially produced curry powder on sale by 1780. Queen Victoria, on whose tables curries appeared throughout her reign, employed Indian servants to wait on her from the 1870s. On at least one occasion one of them cooked her a curry of his own creation, which she greatly enjoyed.” from FutureLearn Here
Recipe from the New England Cookbook, 1836
How to Make Victorian Sandwiches from Sponge Cake