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Free online course

A History of Royal Food and Feasting

Chart the history of royal food in the splendour of royal palaces.


  • Access to the course for its duration + 14 days, starting from when you join
  • No certificate


  • Unlimited access to the course for as long as it exists on FutureLearn
  • A Certificate of Achievement when you complete the course

Find out more

A History of Royal Food and Feasting

Why join the course?

Did you know that Henry VIII ordered the first apricot trees to be planted in England because he couldn’t get enough of them? Or that chocolate was first introduced to England by Charles II to compete with the French court?

On this course, you’ll join expert historians, curators and food scientists from the University of Reading and Historic Royal Palaces, to immerse yourself in the changing tastes of successive generations of royalty and experience the splendour of their palaces - from the Tudors to the 20th century.

Explore royal food through five remarkable monarchs and their palaces

Over five weeks, we’ll explore the history of royal food through the tastes of five key monarchs, and take an intimate look behind the scenes at some of the most incredible palaces in England:

  • Henry VIII at Hampton Court Palace

  • Elizabeth I at the Tower of London

  • George I at Hampton Court Palace

  • George III at Kew Palace

  • Victoria at Kensington Palace.

Each week, you’ll be invited to:

  • Cook royal recipes: from Tudor pies to Georgian chocolate, prison food to afternoon tea, you’ll get a cooking challenge to try at home, so you can eat like royalty.

  • Get scientific: you’ll explore the flavour, nutritional value and medicinal benefits of royal food past and present, and investigate which era enjoyed the healthiest and tastiest diet.

  • Hone your investigative skills and powers of deduction: you’ll evaluate evidence, artefacts and science to draw your own conclusions about royal food in different eras.

  • Discover some surprising facts: we’ll share riveting tales and challenge some common misconceptions about palaces, monarchs, and their impact on dietary tastes today.

  • Share your findings with thousands of people around the world: you’ll debate your opinions and compare experiences with expert mentors and other learners.

Run up to Christmas

With the festive season fast approaching, we pause to take a look at how the royal households celebrated this time of year. We also include some traditional Christmas recipes from each era, for you to try.

  • Throughout the course, you’ll learn with well-known experts;

From University of Reading:

  • Kate Williams is Professor of Public Engagement with History. Kate has written acclaimed books on royal history, including books on Victoria and Elizabeth II. She comments widely on royal events and affairs on TV and also on food history - including Bake Off and on Heston Blumenthal’s shows. She has collaborated frequently with Historic Royal Palaces on fundraising events and believes that the palaces are a key part of the nation’s heritage that should be preserved for future generations.

  • Lindy Grant is Professor of Medieval History. A widely published author, she works on the history and the culture of Medieval France. She was President of the British Archaeological Association from 2010-2013. She advised English Heritage on their conservation and new interpretation of Dover Castle keep, is a member of the Comité Scientifique for the Centre de compréhension de l’Europe du Moyen Age (Tapisserie de Bayeux). Lindy has done media work for both British and French TV, and took part in the In our Time programme on Eleanor of Aquitaine.

  • Dr Lisa Methven: Associate Professor in Food and Sensory Science and manager of the Sensory Science Centre. Lisa’s research focuses on individual differences in sensory perception of foods and their association with liking, food choice and dietary intake. Her research has led to public engagement through television, radio and national press.

  • Dr Jane Parker: Founder and Director of the University Flavour Centre and an expert in the area of flavour chemistry.

Guest contributor:

  • Heston Blumenthal, OBE, world renowned chef is famous for his creativity and pioneering new techniques through multi-sensory cooking, flavour encapsulation and food pairing. Heston received an honorary Doctor of Science degree, in 2006, from the University of Reading in recognition of his unique scientific approach to food and long-standing relationship with the University’s School of Food Biosciences.

From Historic Royal Palaces:

  • Marc Meltonville: Food Historian with the Historic Royal Palaces kitchen team, with a specialism in Tudor food, who collaborates with Heston Blumenthal on new multi-sensory dishes for his award winning Michelin-starred restaurants.

  • Polly Putnum: Collections Curator responsible for Hampton Court Palace and Kew Palace, who researched the recently restored Chocolate Kitchens at Hampton Court Palace.

  • Dr Annie Gray: Historian, Cook, and Broadcaster who specialises in the history of food and dining in Britain from 1600 to the present day.

When would you like to start?

  • Date to be announced

Who is the course for?

This course is intended for anyone with an interest in history, food and food science. It doesn’t require any reading before you start or previous experience of studying the subject.

Who will you learn with?

Kate Williams

I am Professor of History, University of Reading, author of acclaimed books on royalty, royal expert for TV, food and social historian. They've even let me talk food history on Bake Off! Big HRP fan!

Lindy Grant

Professor of Medieval History at University of Reading

Who developed the course?