Monday, 3 October 2011

A Royal English wedding planning

The 26 December 1251 a massive royal wedding took place in the city of York. Margaret, the daughter of Henry III, was wed to Alexander III of Scots.

Alexander King of Scots at his coronation in 1249
 I medieval times the planning probably was a greater challenge than today. You did not have the same means of communication, transportation and preservation of the food. Because a wedding was a way of showing of your wealth and power in the high societies the feast were comprehensive events. We can get a clue as to how extensive by looking at Margaret and Alexander's wedding.

From the records it appears that the planning of the feast began in the summer.

July: Beasts were bought from the fairs and pastured until they were to be slaughtered just before the wedding. An order was also given to slaughter and salt 300 red and fallow deer.

August: Early August 100 wine tuns or 25,000 gallons of wine was brought in.

October: In the northern counties the sheriffs were told to supply hens (7000), game birds, rabbits, hares, pigs and boars (70). Later a 100 more boars were added.

November: Another 1000 roe fallow and red deer was ordered. You can probably imagine that with all that meat they would need a LOT of bread for the guest. It was ordered from the local bakers in the insane amount of 68,500 for £7000 ! To be able to cook all the meals a great many charcoal was needed and the wood was collected from the forests of Glatres and Langwith. At the end of the month such delicacies as sugar, almonds and rice were bought.

Margaret of England
 December: The fish was ordered: 60.000 salted herring, 1000 greenfish, 10.000 haddocks and 500 conger eels. The fresh-water fish came from the King's stew pond and was to be kept alive until they day to keep them fresh.

There are a couple of cookbooks preserved mostly from early 14 century and onwards, but with evidence that the recipes are far older. Recipes weren't as precise as today, there wasn't much mention of quantity, but from the big variation in products you can guess that they probably had a wide range of meals on the menu during the days of this royal and massive wedding.

Source: Food and feast in medieval England, by P.W.Hammond, 1995

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