Graphologists have long busied themselves studying Prince Charles’s handwriting in the ‘black spider memos’ for clues as to the personality of our future King. And in recent months kinesicists have been wheeled out from obscurity to sit on breakfast show sofas to opine on Harry and Meghan’s body language in that interview.
But perhaps royal watchers are looking in the wrong place for insight. 'Tell me what you eat and I will tell you who you are.' So declared the celebrated gastronome Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin.
Diana apparently liked to wander into the royal kitchens to cook her own pasta and chat with the chefs which provides a glimpse into the discomfort she felt at the perceived constraints of her position. But what of the other royals?
Demonstrating her quiet discipline, former Royal Chef Darren McGrady reports that the Queen shuns starchy carbs in favour of lighter options, such as grilled fish or chicken, wherever she can. And it is always duty first for our Monarch: garlic is apparently banned from use in the royal kitchens since 'they obviously did a lot of public engagements and were in close proximity to people.'
The Queen is also a master of tact and diplomacy: when during her first Christmas at Sandringham, the Duchess of Cambridge gifted the Queen a jar of marrow chutney she was delighted to find it on the dining table the next day.
Her Majesty has long championed iconic British foods. She is particularly keen on beef or venison fillet in a whiskey and mushroom cream sauce, with the secret ingredient being a quarter teaspoon of Marmite. And she keeps alive the glorious tradition of the afternoon tea, which she apparently sits down to every day without fail. It typically consists of sandwiches (especially jam pennies – little, crustless sandwiches cut into circles), various sweet morsels and scones (which she often crumbles up and shares with her corgis).
The monarch knows what she likes, and chocolate has pride of place. According to McGrady 'The darker the chocolate, the better.' Drambuie chocolate mousse is a particular favourite and you can whip it up just as ex-Royal Chef John Higgins used to with his recipe here. Fittingly for the daughter of the former Emperor of India, mangoes are another love. Higgins says: 'She could tell you how many mangoes were in the fridge at Buckingham Palace'. Long May She Reign.
The Duke of Edinburgh
In all of the tributes to the late Prince Philip as loyal consort, decorated naval officer, able sportsman and much more, his talents in the kitchen passed with less notice. But the Prince was in fact something of a real ‘foodie’. He was even the first person in Britain to cultivate a successful crop of black truffles, after twelve years of effort to create a truffière in the royal fruit farm at Sandringham. His adventurous palate and supremely hands-on approach were reflective of his personality. During summer stays at Balmoral McGrady recalls Philip 'cooked on the grill maybe three, four, five times a week,' And in Dinner at Buckingham Palace, former royal footman Charles Oliver noted that 'wherever he goes, he insists on his electric glass-lidded frying pan being packed so that he can do the cooking. For breakfast, bacon, eggs and sausages are his usual raw materials, though he often cooks kidneys and omelettes.'
The Queen Mother
The Queen Mother was a great gourmand, eating and drinking with the zest and abandon which were the hallmarks of her character. She is also a cheering reminder that daily tipples of Dubonnet and gin before lunch and martinis at 6pm need not stop one living to a ripe old age. Oeufs Drumkilbo – somewhere between a posh prawn cocktail and eggs mayonnaise – were a favourite of hers. As were Chicken Tropicana, Tipsy Tart, After Eight ice cream and Soufflé Rothschild (invented by the legendary Marie-Antoine Carême, ‘The King of Chefs and the Chef of Kings’). These and more have been recorded for future generations of epicures in a collection of her favourite recipes, A Taste Of Mey, and you can re-create some of the best at home with the recipes here.
As befits a man who launched his own organic range (Duchy Originals) over 30 years ago, Prince Charles tries to stick to an organic diet wherever possible. Even when travelling 'He liked to have his own food with him,' his former chef Carolyn Robb has said. Robb also recalls fond memories of foraging for wild mushrooms with Charles at Balmoral. Another favourite of his is poached plums from the orchard at Highgrove. For breakfast, former chef Mervyn Wycherley remembers: 'It was never anything other than a four-minute egg'. A picture emerges of HRH as at one with nature, a man who knows his own mind and who practices what he preaches: Prince Charles leads the way within the Family when it comes to zero tolerance for food waste. Robb remembers 'They were always very thrifty and economical. If we made roasted lamb and there was leftovers, we’d probably go and make shepherd’s pie the next night.'
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge
Proving that the royal couple are thoroughly modern, in 2018 Prince William revealed that he is partial to grilled chicken chain Nando's, having been introduced to the restaurant by one of his protection officers. And in an interview with BBC Radio 1, the Duke and Duchess revealed that their takeaway of choice is usually a curry (though not too spicy, at Will’s insistence). They also both 'love sushi'. Yet a good old fashioned sticky toffee pudding from Berkshire pub the Old Boot Inn is apparently the Duchess’s ultimate dessert. And demonstrating the Duke and Duchess have a proper respect for family tradition, at their wedding day they served up the Queen’s favourite teatime treat, the chocolate biscuit cake. You can recreate it yourself with the recipe here.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex
When Harry and Meghan announced their engagement in 2017, Harry revealed in a BBC interview that he had popped the question as the couple were 'trying to roast a chicken'. He knows the way to Meghan’s heart; as she once said to Good Housekeeping, 'If you have an Ina Garten-level roasted chicken recipe, it's a game-changer.' Otherwise Meghan likes to eat food that reminds her of home, namely 'acai bowls, green juices, chopped salads'. But let us not ignore a demonstration of her enduring commitment to the Commonwealth: Meghan is also a big fan of Canadian national dish poutine – chips topped with cheese curds and gravy.