From banquets to pottage, what Tudors ate and drank varied greatly subject to their wealth and social status. Poor and wealthy alike lived off the land, using ingredients based on their availability and seasonality.
For those Tudors who could afford it, there was nothing like a good banquet to show off your wealth and social status. From interesting ingredients to intricately designed sugarcraft, banquets became a key social event, and Tudor monarchs notoriously indulged in some of the finest dishes and delicacies available.
In this video, Dan Snow visits the historic dining room at Beaulieu Palace House and plays at being a pampered Tudor King, sampling some of the food that would have been on the menu at a Tudor banquet.
First, he tries some venison, which was a popular option for the nobility as it could not be purchased, only hunted in private deer parks.
Next, he tastes a whole conger eel. Conger eel was not an everyday food but was something that a king might have eaten at a banquet. For example, we know that at The Field of Cloth of Gold, the Royal Household’s fish menu included; 9,100 plaice, 7,836 whiting, 5,554 soles, 2,800 crayfish, 700 conger eels, 3 porpoises and a dolphin.
He goes on to try something a bit more familiar to us; the humble sweet potato. Sweet potatoes were brought over to Europe by explorers in the Tudor era and were known to be very popular with Henry VIII.
Dan finishes up with a bite of marchpane, a sweet pudding consisting mostly of sugar and ground almonds. Marchpane became a key and fashionable part of the banquet dessert. Initially intended to be eaten, they ended up becoming predominantly a way for hosts to show off.
The whole meal is washed down with plenty of ale, a staple drink in the Tudor period.