Sunday, April 17, 2011

"Pork, eggs, egret"

On this morning's Wikipedia ramble [1], I stumbled upon the article about Eleanor of Brittany, who preceded King John [2] and Henry III in the line of succession to Richard the Lionheart, and therefore had to be kept under house arrest all her life and prevented from having children. The conditions of her confinement were not especially restrictive:
While imprisoned by her uncle John, Eleanor was allowed to have 3 maids, and was provided fabric for clothes and bedding, and pocket money as much as 5 mark per quarter.[20]She also got a saddle with gilded reins and scarlet ornaments from John and another saddle from Henry III, which implied that she might be a horsewoman, and that she could not always be confined in her room.

What caught my eye, however, was this factoid:
Henry himself once sent her 50 yards of linen cloth, three wimples, 50 pounds of almonds and raisins respectively and a basket of figs.[19]

The mind boggles at the quantity of almonds... A later footnote provides a shopping list that is suggestive of the royal diet of the times:
Saturday: bread, ale, sole, almonds, butter, eggs. Sunday: mutton, pork, chicken and eggs. Monday: beef, pork, honey, vinegar. Tuesday. pork, eggs, egret. Wednesday: herring, conger, sole, eels, almonds and eggs. Thursday: pork, eggs, pepper, honey. Friday: conger, sole, eels, herring and almonds.

Source: 1215: The Year of Magna Carta, by Danny Danziger and John Gillingham. I don't know if Eleanor had a particular thing for almonds or this was standard medieval-royalty food, but she does seem to have gone through them at a shocking rate. NB the list is a shopping list, which is presumably why conger and eels were bought on the same day.


[1] I think the sequence was Edmund Gosse - Hamo Thornycroft (friend of Gosse's; awesome name) - Hamo the Sheriff (name remembered from Domesday Book) - Humphrey de Bohun (successor of H. the S.) - Henry III - Eleanor of Brittany.

[2] John was apparently referred to as John Lackland or Softsword (!)


Jenny Davidson said...

Did you ever read E L Konigsberg's excellent book "A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver"?

ALMONDS! I like 'em, but not perhaps to that degree...

Zed said...

Haven't read Konigsberg, no, but it's drifting my way over the "Whispernet" -- thanks!

Zed said...

Hm, or not. Looks like I only pre-ordered it.