Josh Ireland

Recipes for disaster

A moving insight into family life is provided by Ann Fanshawe’s remedies for melancholy, memory loss and other ailments

Halfway through Lady Fanshawe’s Receipt Book Lucy Moore takes a moment to regret the vast tracts of the past that are lost to us. How lucky we would be if more examples of our ancestors’ daily interactions with others, what she calls ‘the scraps of daily life we take for granted’, had been preserved.

Instead, of course, we must make do with the flotsam that has survived, and to try to coax quotidian objects into offering up glimpses into lives that might otherwise have remained obscure. Court records, depositions and wills have all been interrogated by historians, as have more unlikely items, such as the collections of culinary and medical preparations compiled by women from ‘receipts’ given to them by their friends and relations.

Moore has used the receipt book owned by a Stuart loyalist, Ann Fanshawe, along with her memoirs, to produce a lively, affecting account of one family’s fortunes in a world turned upside down. In the process, she tells a broader story of how ordinary people experienced the English civil war, an earthquake in our nation’s history.

The daughter of a prosperous servant of the king, Ann married, at 19, Richard Fanshawe, a man 17 years her senior, who combined his career as a courtier and diplomat with a taste for literature. It was a love match that would endure until his untimely death, but Richard’s position at Charles I’s court, and the loyalty he would continue to show to his son, Charles II, meant that their fate was hitched to the Royalist wagon.

In the years after Charles I’s execution the Fanshawe family would manouevre around Britain and Europe, pushed about by the new king’s quixotic attempts to maintain the fiction that he was a sovereign in anything more than name. Those Royalists who stayed close to their homes and families saw their goods seized, and were often subjected to heavy fines.

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