Rosemary Shrager and Tim Wonnacott visit Warwick Castle, revealing what happened when Queen Victoria stayed there with Albert in 1858, for just three hours.
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Just how do you prepare when a queen decides she's going to pay you a visit?
And not any old queen. Victoria.
And as a chef who loves food, I'll be stirring up things downstairs
making a 19th-century dish that would have been served to Victoria.
We'll be delving into Victoria's personal diaries to reveal what happened behind closed doors.
Today we're not visiting a traditional stately home.
More a full-blown fortress.
And as someone who's spent a lifetime getting excited by antiques,
I'll be upstairs exploring just what would have excited Victoria on her visit here.
And, as a chef who loves food, I'll be stirring things up downstairs,
making a 19th-century dish that would have been served to Victoria,
and trying it out on Tim's 21st-century tastebuds.
You're just a genius.
Victoria and Albert popped in to Warwick Castle
during their four-day tour to Warwickshire.
They'd been nearby in Birmingham,
opening the stately Aston Hall as a tourist attraction.
But a trip to Warwickshire wouldn't have been complete for the royals
without a visit to one of England's best-loved castles.
Warwick Castle was as much a tourist attraction in 1858 when Victoria and Albert visited, as it is today.
The Earls of Warwick had been allowing the public into the castle
for at least 30 years before the Queen popped in.
And with the coming of the Victorian railway,
more than 10,000 visitors a year were regularly pitching up here.
So it was 16th June 1858
when Victoria and Albert became tourists themselves,
in order to enjoy this medieval treasure trove.
The Queen had been on the throne for 21 years
when she visited Warwick Castle as a day-tripper.
The Earl of Warwick and his wife,
hosts for the three-hour visit,
were originally meant to put them up here,
but they had the builders in
so the royal couple stayed with the Leigh family
at nearby Stoneleigh Abbey.
This was such a brief visit.
It was just time for her to have a good snoop and a little lunch,
but there was still masses of preparation going on downstairs,
which is where I'm off now.
And I'm off to take the royal tour around this grand old castle.
And with them on their look-about, was Georgina Leigh,
who they'd been staying with at Stoneleigh Abbey the night before.
She kept an exquisite journal of the Queen's tour of Warwickshire,
which includes details of the visit to Warwick Castle.
She records, "I was told at the last moment
that I was to be one of the party to Warwick",
and that her carriage had to take a shortcut to the castle
in order to get there on time.
Victoria, meanwhile, took the scenic route,
with well-wishers cheering her on,
as this picture from the Illustrated London News Report of the day, shows.
Victoria arrived through these portcullises
and into the courtyard or keep of Warwick Castle.
She records in her journal, "At two, we reached Warwick Castle,
the position of which, surrounded by trees and just overhanging the Avon,
"The old entrance through the battlements cut out of the wall, is very curious,
and there's a keep just in the style of the one at Windsor."
Most of the castle was built some 500 years before Victoria's visit.
It was owned by the Crown until 1604,
when it was gifted to a chap called Sir Fulke Greville
and it was the Grevilles who were eventually given the title of Earls of Warwick,
and it was them who created a stately home inside the ancient walls,
transforming the fortress from a cold and uncomfortable place
into a warm and luxurious stately family home.
With such a brief visit,
the Earl of Warwick was keen to impress with a fabulous lunch.
Over 30 dishes were prepared for Victoria and Albert's feast.
One of the dishes on the menu was an absolute favourite of mine.
Mayonnaise de homard,
a lobster and mayonnaise salad,
and that's what I'm going to make today.
I'm going to crack on,
just as the servants would have done downstairs
ahead of the Queen's arrival,
starting with the eggs.
They had to make their mayonnaise
because the jars weren't available until 1905,
and actually, in my opinion, I think home-made mayonnaise tastes better.
To an egg, I'm adding Dijon mustard.
Next, some olive oil.
We add the oil drop by drop by drop,
so it starts to get thicker.
Lobster was quite a delicacy in those days.
They had potted lobster, curried lobster, grilled lobster,
and lobster salad.
So it was pretty versatile.
Oh, it's really stiffening up now. It really is.
I would have thought this was given to the under maids to do.
And imagine, they would have done vast quantities of this.
That poor little under maid.
Right, that's finished, so I'm now going to put it on ice.
Perfect. I'll be tackling the lobster a little later.
Having entered the courtyard,
the 39-year-old Victoria alighted from her carriage with Albert
to meet the hosts for her brief visit.
Victoria's diary tells us,
"Lord Warwick met us at the door,
but Lady Warwick, a pretty, graceful person, but in delicate health,
having to be wheeled about in a chair, received us at the top of the stairs."
In fact, also waiting at the door,
according to newspaper reports,
were the couple's three children,
the eldest of whom was five at the time of the visit,
and it clearly had an effect.
Because later, when he became the 5th Earl, he records in his memoirs,
"I know that I had to present a bouquet to the Queen,
and that she kissed me and my brother Alwyn."
"Doubtless, Alwyn and I, duly honoured,
but my baby brother in arms, Louis,
whom Her Majesty tried to kiss,
resented the attention bitterly
and screamed, struggled, and finally, I regret to say, blew bubbles."
It is not recorded if Her Majesty was amused.
Below stairs, preparations for lunch would have been well underway,
and with the mayonnaise finished, it's time to tackle the lobster.
Here we have our lovely, native lobster.
They're absolutely delicious.
Now, I'm going to take the claws off first, these big claws,
and I'm going to remove the rest of the claws.
Right, so, first of all,
we need to take the meat from the claws.
There we go, so it all comes out in one.
There we go.
Now I'm going to do the other claw, which is the bigger claw,
which is actually the claw that holds onto the prawn if they're eating prawns,
and the other one is the scissors.
This is actually a right-handed lobster.
Lobster needs to be cooked alive,
and Warwick is a long way from the sea,
so the creatures were shipped live from the coast in tanks,
making it an expensive and high-status food,
much like today.
So you take the intestine from here,
which is the little bag,
and take the tail out.
That's the hard work done.
The next step will be to put it all together.
Before lunch, the royal party was shown into the Great Hall,
where objects from across the centuries were on display.
Perhaps the most Victorian of objects
that Victoria and Albert would have seen here at Warwick Castle, is this,
the Kenilworth Buff-ay or Buffet, depending on how you pronounce it.
It's carved from an oak tree felled at nearby Kenilworth,
and the carving depicts an earlier chivalrous age,
a reminder of Britain's medieval past.
To some eyes,
this is an absolute tour de force of the oak carver's skill.
To others, it is a monstrous, out-sized sideboard.
Either way, Victoria would certainly have admired it.
It was given to the 4th Earl of Warwick as a wedding present.
I wonder if he liked it.
He couldn't exactly take it back to the shop and exchange it, could he?
One of the extraordinary features of this sideboard
is these pillar supports,
which are carved in the form of a bear,
as in bear-baiting, chained to a tree,
which is an emblem of the town of Warwick.
But what's strange about them is that they've been made so they can revolve
As the Queen and Albert, her own knight in shining armour,
continued their whirlwind tour of the castle,
they must have relished the cool interiors
on what was, according to Victoria's diary, "a very hot day".
Victoria was dressed appropriately in a white muslin dress.
Yes, she really did once wear colours other than black.
When it came to creating a luncheon worthy of Her Majesty,
it wasn't just the food that had to stand out on the table.
Decoration was just as important.
I'm off to the conservatory
to meet Jane Edmonds, a period floristry expert.
Victorians loved flowers and had them all around,
on their person they wore them, in their hair and in their clothes.
They particularly liked in the house, plants with the new variegated foliage,
and the more contrasts the better.
-Oh, really? Quite garish?
-Yes, it isn't to our tastes now.
The same with the flowers in the vase, the fern, and the limey green with the dark red.
That was a very popular colour scheme.
-Doesn't seem to be subtle, does it?
-No, it's not.
This picture from the Illustrated London News Report
shows the Queen seated for lunch at the castle.
If you look closely, you can see a flower arrangement on the table,
known as an apern.
And we've got a copy here of that table centre,
and we're going to make it.
We know the curtains and chairs in the dining room where Victoria ate
were in crimson velvet,
so we've chosen rich, crimson roses
that would have co-ordinated with the decor.
And in true Victorian style, we've added some yellow roses
to give some real contrast.
They used wire and twigs, packed matchsticks or twigs,
and then they supported them
to place them deep into that construction here.
When Victoria came, they'd have picked all the flowers here.
-They didn't buy any?
-They wouldn't have bought them. They may have had gardens.
Queen Victoria herself provided flowers for her homes
from a big garden, and they were sent overnight.
Interestingly, the head gardener would have been responsible for growing the best-quality flowers,
and he would have also made the actual flower arrangements.
The apern's height allowed the diners to enjoy conversation with the person opposite
without encroaching on the view.
It's very pretty, isn't it?
Flower arranging was very popular in Victoria's day.
The middle classes were inspired
by pictures of grand tables in country houses.
The prettiest flowers were placed in the eye line of the most honoured guest,
in this case, of course, Queen Victoria.
There were many magazines of the time
telling people how to make their flower arrangements,
recommending not too many types of flowers
and not too many flowers.
Makes a bit of a change from cooking.
-Well, Jane, I think we're nearly there.
And I think all I have to do now is place it on the Queen's table.
-Fantastic. Looks wonderful.
The last-minute invitation to Warwick for the Leigh family,
who Victoria had been staying with at nearby Stoneleigh Abbey,
caused some chaos,
as Lady Georgina Leigh explains in her marvellous journal.
She says she arrived just in time for lunch
and was hurried into the dining room with her companion Lady Gwendolen.
In her diary she commented, "The Queen was sitting on a kind of throne
and was talking to Lady Warwick,
who, being an invalid, was in a Bath chair."
But as Georgina and Gwendolen circled the table looking for somewhere to sit,
it became apparent that, shock horror, not enough places had been set for lunch!
An unwelcome game of Victorian musical chairs ensued,
as Georgina explains.
"Lady Gwendolen and myself found only one place."
"Of course, we were both preparing to back out
when the Queen, who had an observant eye,
exclaimed, 'Poor girls, they will neither of them get any luncheon.'"
"This remark had the effect of sending Lady Gwendolen, who was nearest the door, quickly out of it,
and I had to remain."
Hm. I wonder if poor old Lady Gwen ever got any grub.
After lunch, Victoria was back on the tourist trail.
First up, the state rooms,
which she records in her journal.
"We passed through several fine rooms
with beautiful furniture and splendid Van Dykes."
The rich and sumptuous style of the rooms must have impressed Victoria.
The Illustrated London News described how "She must have found many features of special interest,
and much for contemplation, as well as observation."
A century and a half before Victoria's visit,
another queen was due to put in a similar royal appearance.
In 1704 Queen Anne was due to visit Warwick Castle,
and her own bed was sent from Windsor, along with her travel chest,
ahead of her arrival.
But she never turned up.
Queen Anne's visit was cancelled.
But the bed and the chest remained here until 1773,
when King George III made them a permanent gift to the Earl of Warwick.
It is indeed a very fine bed,
as are all the tapestries which contain this room.
Look at the detail, and quite how bright these colours are.
That's because, it's said,
that the weavers employed a man to drink as much beer as he possibly could
in order that he would produce as much urine as possible
because the weavers used the urine
to stop colours in the dyes from running.
Nice work if you can get it.
Not so sure about that, Tim.
I wonder if that was part of the tourist information for the royal guests.
We do know that outside in the courtyard,
a Warwickshire Yeomanry band was playing to entertain Victoria and Albert.
And today the current band of the Royal Yeomanry is here
to recreate the atmosphere.
Somewhere under that beautiful plumage
is their Director of Music Major Roy Falshaw.
Tell me about the origins of the Yeoman movement.
It wasn't just about music, was it? It was about the militia as well.
Yes, the militia would protect the land for the wealthy owners
and, of course, the landowners were the officers, generally,
and the farmers and farm workers were, in fact, the yeomen.
-So it was a bit of a mix of upstairs-downstairs.
-Most of the landowners would have had a small band.
They'd be local musicians and other militias as well.
These eventually formed into the regimental bands of the Yeomanry.
What music did they play in Victorian times, and what do you play now?
Well, the pieces we play today, firstly the regimental march of the Royal Yeomanry,
and the regimental march of all Yeomanry regiments in England is The Farmer's Boy,
and Queen Victoria would most certainly have known that one.
Today's Yeomanry band is also made up of part-time musicians,
but now from the Territorial Army.
I must tell you, I love your hat.
I think your hat is absolutely wonderful.
-It's a Chapka.
No-one really knows why the band ended up wearing this hat
that was originally Polish military attire.
Maybe they just fancied wearing it.
While the band played on, the royal couple continued their tour
and headed for the boudoir. Cripes!
As the Warwickshire Standard describes,
"The boudoir was a perfect picture, fitted up with blue and white satin."
But it wasn't quite perfect.
Unfortunately for the poor Warwicks,
some dodgy seating provided a true moment of farce.
A relative of the Earl had a contretemps with a chair in front of the Queen,
as the 5th Earl's memoirs reveal.
"My mother's kinswoman, old Lady Mexborough was with us,
and the Queen, who knew that she was even older than she looked,
said to her, very kindly, 'Please sit down.'"
"Lady Mexborough thereupon sat down
on one of the new and incomplete chairs..."
"..and her partial disappearance was very swift and dramatic."
"Queen Victoria's strict sense of decorum
was not quite proof against this incident."
Clearly, Victoria had a complete fit of the giggles.
And Lady Georgina continues in her diary,
"Her Majesty expressed a wish to go out of doors,
and we all followed and explored the gardens in all directions."
No doubt giggling hilariously wherever they went.
Georgina records that as they passed through the gardens,
the Queen noticed the Illustrated London News artists in the shrubbery making sketches,
and she asked to see their work.
Ha! The Victorian paparazzi had been caught out by the Queen herself.
Fortunately for them, she approved.
Could have been tricky, though.
Back downstairs, I'm assembling my lovely lobster salad
that Victoria and Albert were served when they visited.
So I'm going to just take some Little Gems.
Many lettuce varieties that were used in Victorian times are no longer popular.
One in particular was called the Tennis Ball lettuce,
so I'm using a Little Gem instead.
So now I'm going to put...
my lovely pieces of chopped lobster tail,
which I'm going to bung in there.
I'm going to dress it with the mayonnaise. Not too much.
A large, rounded tablespoon.
And I'm going to just mix it all up.
Now, what will happen is,
the lettuce will wilt a tiny bit.
It's bound to.
We're going to place it in the bowl.
Now, I'm going to do this with my hands
because this is going to be much easier to control.
So don't worry about it. My hands are very clean indeed.
So I'm going to pop it in there.
You've got to make it into a dome
so I'm going to squeeze it together.
The next stage is to mask the salad.
"Masking" is a Victorian term, meaning "cover".
I have to mask the entire thing.
The reason for masking is so that the garnishes stick to the dish.
Just like glue.
The Victorians were mad about their garnishes.
And to garnish, I'm using hard-boiled eggs,
gherkin, green olives,
and garnish with a little fresh dill to make it really pretty.
And I'm going to use these little antennaes
just from the lobster,
just to give it that lobster feel,
rather dramatic and hopefully "wow" look about it.
I think Tim is going to love this,
and it's what Victoria ate as well.
Albert, somewhat tiring of the official tour, went off on his own.
When Victoria asked where he was,
she was told he'd headed to Guy's Tower, and who can blame him?
Up here on the battlements,
he must have got a real sense of this fantastic castle.
Ha ha! Typical bloke, hey?
What is it that from early childhood about castle ramparts
particularly excites the male of the species?
I don't know.
Where's my arrows?
In every sense during these royal visits,
Victoria and Albert were taking first-hand history lessons.
It was through such visits that Victoria came to piece together
a continuous story of the country she ruled.
But stately home tourism was a popular pastime
and not just confined to royalty.
Such was the popularity with the common people
that the housekeeper here at Warwick, one Maria Hume,
earned the amazing sum of £30,000 in today's money,
in tips from the public, for simply showing them round the castle.
No wonder she's smiling.
Let's hope I can make Tim smile,
by showing him just what I've been up to.
We're in the very dining room the Queen ate in,
feasting on dishes including the lobster salad.
And the table's adorned with a fabulous flower arrangement
that would also have greeted Her Majesty.
This is Mayonnaise de homard, which is just lobster with mayonnaise.
-A very simple dish, but absolutely delicious.
This was one of the many dishes that she would have had for her lunch
on her very brief visit.
But this is what gives me goose bumps, you see,
cos we're in the dining room,
and having the dish that she actually had for lunch,
and it was prepared by your fair hand.
It gave me great pleasure to do something from start to finish.
-What are these red, squiffery things on top?
-The antennae of the lobster.
-I'm going to just pop this on your plate.
-Let me just put it there.
Yes, it's quite tricky to serve.
It's what my mother used to call "moist".
It certainly is.
Right, OK, well.
Well, you've done a lovely job demolishing that.
I certainly have. That was difficult to serve.
-So, do try it.
-Thank you very much. How lovely.
So let's go for it.
That is delicious.
Darling, you have done well here.
That is lovely, isn't it?
It's no wonder you are who you are. You're just a genius.
It's an incredibly simple dish to prepare.
Because after all, they had to have simple dishes
amongst all the complicated dishes, but lobster was a great delicacy.
-Well, it's absolutely delicious.
Before the royal couple left,
the Queen just about had time to do the obligatory tree-planting
in the grounds of the castle,
as this illustration from the Illustrated London News shows,
before hurrying off to catch the train back to London.
At Warwick railway station, they bid farewell to Lord and Lady Warwick
and the Leigh family with whom they had been staying at nearby Stoneleigh Abbey.
She thanked them for an enjoyable visit.
Lady Georgina Leigh wrote in her diary,
"So ends my account, and I trust all true-hearted Warwickshire folk
will respond to the sentiment
that their county has become dearer to them
now its soil has been trodden,
its beauties visited, its scenery admired,
by the beloved sovereign Victoria."
"The great, the good, the model woman."
Join us next time on Royal Upstairs Downstairs,
when Victoria and Albert exchange authentic medieval
for a newly-built castle, Penrhyn in North Wales,
complete with all mod cons.
A flushing loo!
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
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Antiques expert Tim Wonnacott and chef Rosemary Shrager travel in the footsteps of Queen Victoria, Britain's longest reigning monarch, looking at the houses, castles and stately homes she visited throughout her life.
Victoria, who had been on the throne for 21 years, visited Warwick Castle with Albert in 1858 for just three hours. They were tourists just like the other ten thousand visitors to the castle, which had been open to the public for at least 30 years before the queen popped in. The royal couple used the visit to learn more about the history of their country from one of the finest castles in England, built some 500 years earlier.
Over thirty dishes were served for Victoria and Albert at the castle, including mayonnaise de homard, a lobster and mayonnaise salad that Rosemary prepares in the programme. She also recreates an amazing table decoration as it is seen in an illustration of the event. Finally, she listens to the Band of the Royal Yeomanry, the current equivalent of the band that played for the royal visit, and discovers what music was performed.
Meanwhile, Tim discovers the story of how two late guests had to fight it out over the one remaining place at the royal lunch, and how some dodgy seating provided a true moment of farce that tickled Victoria. He also reveals how the queen spotted the artists of the Illustrated London News in the shrubbery making sketches, and asked to see their work. Fortunately for them, she approved.