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Skip to 0 minutes and 21 seconds Well, I am Gertrude Cortenay, Lady Marchioness of Exeter, and we’re sitting in the Great Hall at Hampton Court Palace. This is His Grace’s Great Hall, the centrepiece of the court. Now, I am a courtier here. I have served at the court for a number of years, as my husband has also. And we are expecting the christening of the new prince, Prince Edward, born just a couple of days ago here at Hampton Court, and, well, much to the happiness of all of England, for we’ve been expecting this for many, many years. Prince Edward will be christened here at the Chapel Royal. And this will be the start of celebrations over the next few days.

Skip to 0 minutes and 57 seconds So there will be a great procession going through the Great Hall here, through the whole of Hampton Court Palace, to the Chapel Royal. And then after the christening and I have to say, I am honoured to have the opportunity to carry the prince at the celebration to the Chapel Royal after the christening, there will be feasting here in the Great Hall and more privately for the King, I’m sure. There will be music, dancing, masques, maybe jousting. This has been prepared for months, I’m sure. Because ever since it was decided that the queen would lay in here at Hampton Court Palace, everybody knew that the celebrations would happen here. All of the court will turn out.

Skip to 1 minute and 37 seconds And ambassadors, as well, will be visiting the court to take part and to see the security of England. The point of a feast like this is to show that the King has plenty. The point is there’s always supposed to be food left on the table at the end, which is distributed to the poor. So there’s many courses, meat, obviously, plenty of meat, baked, boiled, fruits, sugared fruits, puddings. But at the centre is the subtlety, which is often a dish made of marchpane, maybe in the fashion of a castle or dragon. I’ve seen George slaying the dragon. That was one of my favourites. And the point is about that is to be marvelled at.

Skip to 2 minutes and 24 seconds I believe when the French ambassadors visited the court, they marvelled for many, many hours at all the different subtleties that were coming up from the kitchens that were beautifully sculpted and then very finely painted and sat in the middle of the table. They look spectacular. They’re not to be eaten. The point is they’re to be admired. Now, a lot of the fresh food, of course, is provided locally. That’s why His Grace’s court will move fairly regularly, because if we stay in one place for too long, the local providers, they will simply run out. And of course, the King is allowed to charge his own terms.

Skip to 3 minutes and 1 second But the more expensive foods, things like wine, sugared fruits, that are imported, and as a result will have high import duty upon them, they will have been brought in from ports such as London, obviously for months in advance and be stored here at Hampton Court. We have the cellars and storehouses for things like that. I would have thought they’ll be extra storehouses prepared to allow for all the extra visitors that are coming. I can’t imagine what it’s like. But it will be vast.

Lady Gertrude Cortenay

Now that you’ve learnt about dining at Hampton Court, let’s hear a first hand account from a member of court, Gertrude Cortenay, Marchioness of Exeter. She may even provide an insider’s view of the christening itself.

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This video is from the free online course:

A History of Royal Food and Feasting

University of Reading