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Painting of the kitchen at Windsor Castle

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Georgian Mensil Books

Vellum volume cover entitled Mensil Book

Mensil Book for Windsor Castle, 1828 Royal Archives/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

The collection of Georgian mensil books, which are closely related to the collection of menu books already available to view on Georgian Papers Online, provide details, in the form of inventories and accounts, of the supply of foodstuffs and other goods to the households of George III, George IV and William IV from 1812 to 1830 and beyond. A noteworthy exception is a volume recording the food, tableware and other goods (candles, lamp oil, china, glass, etc.) supplied to Princess Charlotte (daughter of George IV) and her household at Warwick House, Weymouth and Cranbourne Lodge. This volume provides information not only about the supply of groceries as recorded in the other mensil books, but also provides details of other items essential for the running of a household, including wax lights, tallow, soap, coal, charcoal or sea coal and brushes. The volume also registers the cost of linen washing and the name of who carried out the task. Also of interest is a mensil book that records the gifts of game received for the use of George IV, with details about the specific type of game and the name of the donors.

Painting of the kitchen at Windsor Castle

The Kitchen at Windsor Castle by James Stephanoff RCIN 922094 ©

The other mensil books in the collection can be divided according to the type of goods supplied (such as meat, poultry and fish; butter, eggs, milk and cream; grocery and oilery, wax and tallow; vegetables and fruit received from the royal gardens and coal and wood) as well as by royal residence to a lesser extent. The names of the suppliers, which are many and variable, are usually provided (although generally only the surname, rather than in full).

It is likely that the collections of menu and mensil books were originally kept by the Lord Steward's Department, also named Household Below Stairs (later, Master of the Household's Department), which dealt with domestic and culinary matters. The department was responsible for the catering and official entertaining at all of the royal palaces, as well as all domestic arrangements. The staff in the department included all who worked in the royal kitchens, the housekeeping staff and the housemaids, and some of the craftsmen who maintained the furnishings in the royal palaces. This department was originally presided over by the Lord Steward, who was in charge of all 'below stairs' officers and staff through the Board of Green Cloth. The Lord Steward, however, delegated much of the work to his subordinates, in particular the Master of the Household, and by the 1920s this department was renamed the Master of the Household's Department. Since the latter worked at the direct service of the queen, his records came to join her archives, which is why these menu and mensils books can be found in the Royal Archives.