Skip to 0 minutes and 7 secondsHello, I'm Polly Putnam. I'm one of the curators for Historic Royal Palaces. We are in one of two rooms which were dedicated to the making, and preparing, and serving of chocolate. Chocolate was drunk in Central America-- we know from archaeological evidence from about 1500 B.C. Chocolate within Mayan culture is a royal drink. It's used in marriage ceremonies. It's used in currency. This is because inherently, chocolate is difficult to grow and difficult to prepare. So right from its earliest origins, there's a kind of added value to it. Chocolate gets introduced to England, probably in about the 1640s. The earliest written work on chocolate mentions that it was drunk in the court of Charles I.
Skip to 0 minutes and 55 secondsObviously, when Cromwell comes along, he and his more puritanical followers aren't going to be drinking something as delicious as chocolate. However, what happens is Charles II revives this tradition. He introduces a chocolate maker, called Soloman de la Faya, and 1682. Charles II has his own special chocolate recipe. And this includes the most expensive things you could possibly imagine. It includes ambergris. It includes chilli pepper, cardamom, and all kinds of spices. By the time you get to the reign of Queen Anne, we see that she's actually making chocolate drinking part of the formal court ritual.
Skip to 1 minute and 37 secondsWe know from her lady of the bedchamber, Abigail Masson, that part of her morning ritual, her lever, was the fact that the lady of the bedchamber had to kneel down, and serve Queen Anne chocolate. Indeed, Queen Anne, we know, is one of the most prolific chocolate drinkers of all our kings and queens. We know from her private bills that she was buying enough chocolate for 30 pints a month. When George I arrives from Hanover, he's actually in rather straitened circumstances. He doesn't have personal access to large pools of money in the way that previous kings and queens did. He has to petition to parliament for all of his expenses.
Skip to 2 minutes and 21 secondsSo it might seem strange that one of the most extravagant things you could possibly imagine, a personal chocolate maker, is still something that he'd be willing to pay for. However, because chocolate had become so much part of the English court experience, if you stop serving chocolate people are going to become upset.
How chocolate came to court
Standing in the Chocolate Room at Hampton Court Palace, Collections Curator Polly Putnam explains how drinking chocolate came to the English Court, and why George I kept this tradition going upon coming to the throne.
Nestled in the colonnades of Fountain Court, the Chocolate Kitchen and Chocolate Room were an important part of William and Mary’s new baroque palace. This Chocolate Room would have stored the delicate serving cups and dishes.
Both the Chocolate Kitchen and Chocolate Room are based near the King’s back stairs, which meant a quick journey for the chocolate maker to present the chocolate to the royals.
Update 15:48 (BST) Friday 1st July 2016
Polly will be online for one hour on this step from 13:00 – 1400 on Friday 8th July (BST), responding to questions. If you’d like Polly to respond to you, please post your question in the comment section below, beforehand. Don’t worry if you miss the session for any reason – you can see Polly’s replies in her comment feed by clicking on the link to her profile page.
© University of Reading and Historic Royal Palaces.