The Virtue of Domesticity is Exemplified in Our Queen
Queen Mary as Housekeeper
A Review of Reviews
A Selection of Biographical, Scientific, Literary and Descriptive Articles from Home and Foreign Current Magazines
The Virtue of Domesticity is Exemplified in Our Queen
THERE are probably many thousands of British subjects in different parts of the Empire who have little or no conception of the ordinary homelike characteristics and virtues of the Royal Couple whose lot it has been to be placed at the head of the most widelyextended realm the world has yet seen.
In a recent number of the Lady's Realm appears an article which brings before us in a forcible manner the womanly side of the character of “The First Lady of the Empire.” To many of our own countrymen the extract we make from this article cannot fail to be of surpassing interest, bringing them, as it will do, into closer touch with the personal character of one who by many must have previously been regarded simply as one of the figureheads of the Empire of which we form no minor part.
Queen Mary, says the writer, is gaining a European reputation amongst royal housekeepers. Foreign visitors to the English Court note the perfection of its menage, not excepting that eminent authority on the domestic sphere of woman, the Kaiser.
It is not by chance, or even through the perfection of official routine, that the domestic machinery of our royal palaces runs on oiled wheels, but because Queen Mary takes the trouble to be a practical housekeeper. In Her Majesty’s exalted position it would be so easy to waive tedious details on one side, to acquiesce with a sunny smile to all suggestions laid before her, and take her royal ease in fairy tale fashion, untroubled by questions of expenditure, the breakage of china, and the coming and going of servants. But that is not Queen Mary’s way.
The habit of looking after things herself, which the Queen acquired as a young housekeeper in the comparatively small abode of York Cottage, Sandringham, in the early years of her married life, has been continued in the large and complicated household of the Court.
Queen Mary’s household is seen in perfection at Buckingham Palace, the scene of Court functions and the centre of their Majesties’ social and family life in the Metropolis.
In passing, one may hazard the supposition that the Queen would have liked to see the outside of the palace painted before going into residence. That is what any suburban housekeeper would undoubtedly have demanded for her villa. Londoners good-temperedly bewailed the grimy appearance of the sovereign’s residence, and the Queen was almost as helpless as the crowd outside, for officialdom blocked the way, and the Board of Works considered the expense of giving the . palace a new coat of paint. So the royal housekeeper had perforce to wait two years for the renovation and redecoration of her “town house,” which has only just been completed.
Within, Queen Mary’s taste is seen in the beautiful furnishing and arrangement of the private and many of the State apartments. Everywhere the royal housekeeper’s preference for British goods is apparent.
But to pass to the management of the royal household. The Queen’s success as a housekeeper is largely due to the splendidly organized system by which the work is apportioned. This system has come about gradually. In early Victorian times disorder reigned supreme in many departments of the Royal household, and there are instances on record of Queen Victoria shivering in one of the reception rooms because no one knew whose duty it was to put coals on the fire, and of a broken pane of glass in a royal apartment going unmended for weeks while officialdom was considering the matter. Strenuous reforms were set on foot by the Prince Consort, and an improved system of management was accomplished, but it may be fairly claimed that the improved system, which undoubtedly owed much to King Edward, has reached something like a perfection
of routine under the present reign. To Queen Mary belongs the credit of furthering in every way the officers of the household in their efforts to keep the huge domestic machinery in perfect working control. A love of order and precision are distinguishing traits in the Queen’s character, and all those whose privilege it is to serve Her Majesty have a great appreciation of her prompt, business-like methods.
The section of the Royal household which is particularly associated with the housekeeping department of the palace is known as the “Board of Green Cloth.”
The Board of Green Cloth comprises the Lord Steward’s department, including the Palace Steward, the Chief Cook and the First Gentleman Porter. All matters of housekeeping expenditure and arrangement pass through the hands of these and subordinate officials.
The work of the Palace is apportioned under various Heads of Departments. Each Head controls a certain number of servants. For example, the House Steward supervises the kitchen department, the work of which includes the ordering of supplies; the Palace Steward has charge of the hall service and messengers’ staff, while the Housekeeper controls the little army of trim women servants and the dressers and maids of the Queen and Princess Mary.
In some of the European Courts the dressers are ladies of gentle birth, but at the English Court they rank as upper servants. The King’s valet, a gentleman of the most courtly style and manner, has the control of His Majesty’s personal service staff.
The Pantry Butler has under him a staff of twenty yeoman to assist in the care of the silver, glass and china and the various table services, including the famous gold service used at State banquets.
Last, but not least, Mons. Cedard rules the cooks’ department as only a chef of such reputation can. His chief assistant
is Mons. Oscar Ferry, and he has a staff of nine other assistants and twelve kitchen maids. The Heads of the departments are in their turn responsible for the servants under them to the Lord Steward and the Master of the Household, the chief officials of the royal menage.
The Queen’s first housekeeping duty each morning is the passing of the dinner menu, which she does in conjunction with the King immediately after breakfast, which usually takes place at nine. The menu may be for a small private dinner or for a great State banquet, but the royal housekeeper notes each item. It is not often that she makes an alteration, as Mons. Cedard has a perfect knowledge of the royal taste. He always prepares the menu overnight. After it has been laid before their Majesties in the morning, it is sent to the Master of the Household to be “passed,” after which it is returned to the chef, who now makes out a list of flesh, fish, game and other provisions required for the day’s use. This list is sent to the House Steward, who signs it and passes it on to the Clerk of the Kitchens.
The orders are now given over the telephone to the various tradesmen privileged to supply the Court, and the goods must be delivered at the Palace within two hours after the order has been given. Hence the animated scene before noon at the tradesmen’s entrance to the Palace, in the Buckingham Palace Road, when the carts of butcher, fishmonger and provision merchant come rattling up as though engaged in a Derby race.
The Royal housekeeper is careful to distribute her custom as widely as possible amongst the West-End tradesmen. The stores in the near vicinity of the Palace display on all sides the royal coat of arms above their entrances, and some further afield do so also. It is the aim of Queen Mary to give each tradesman his turn without favor. To ensure this the following rule has been established. Some fifteen or so different tradesmen are put upon the Palace list each month, and these receive the royal orders for that period. Next month, the list is changed and another set of tradesmen get the orders. By this repeated method all the “royal” tradesmen get a fair proportion of orders during the year. When the Court is absent from London the firms on the Palace list get comparatively small orders, and to equalize this no tradesman is put twice in succession on the Palace list when their Majesties are out of town, and so each shares in the full and the lean time.
Queen Mary believes in prompt payment. She never lets her housekeeping bills run on, and she is very particular as to details. Each tradesman must send in a bill with the goods on delivery, even if it is only soap and candles. All bills are filed by the Clerk of the Kitchens, who enters up the amount to the account of the various tradesmen. All accounts made out in detail, are submitted by the Master of the Household to the King and Queen at the end of each month. Her Majesty is the chief scrutineer, and never fails to draw attention to any increased item of expenditure. The Queen
abhors the idea that carelessness, waste and extravagance should be considered royal prerogatives, and sets an admirable example of good management. After the accounts have been passed they are promptly paid by cheque, through the Treasury of the Household.
Each month also, a list of breakages of glass, china, etc., is made out in the various departments and sent to the Clerk of the Kitchens. If a kitchen maid breaks a plate she must “tell.” There is not necessarily any penalty attached to the mishap, but a record of even the most trivial breakage must be made so that the stock may be kept replenished each month. The Queen is informed of the number of “accidents” by the items of new things in the monthly accounts.
The Queen shows her consideration as a housekeeper by the number of laborsaving machines introduced from time to time into the royal kitchens. When visiting industrial and domestic exhibitions Her Majesty takes a keen interest in new inventions for domestic use and, like the children, is curious to see “how the wheels go round.” She gives orders for any patent which attracts her, and is careful to enquire whether it “works” when it is brought home. Electric cooking stoves are much used at the Palace, and all the kitchen arrangements are of the most up-to-date character. At Windsor Castle, however, some old traditions survive, and there on occasions the baron of beef turns on the spit before the huge fireplace while cooks baste it with their long ladles, much as they did centuries ago when the Norman William feasted his knights.
The Royal housekeeper takes a pride in the recipes special to the royal menu much as noble ladies in the days gone by cherished the family recipe book. There are certain dishes for which the royal table lias become famous and which are never tasted elsewhere.
The Royal housekeeper sets an example to all mistresses in the land in her treatment of servants, she takes the trouble to know her servants, not by any means an easy thing in such a large household. There is not a kitchen maid who does not share the Queen’s personal concern. But though eminently considerate and kind, she is not over-indulgent. Her Majesty has a judicial mind and expects her servants to be up to the mark and give good return for liberal wages and comfortable surroundings. The heads of the various departments, understanding Her Majesty’s wishes, give no countenance to slackness or negligence in those under their control. Smartness, capability and comparative youth now characterize the servants of the royal palaces.
The Queen takes an interest in the furnishing side of housekeeping and devotes some time in a morning to receiving the representatives of privileged firms who have goods to offer for her inspection. Her Majesty may not be a connoisseur in every department of artistic goods and fabrics, but she is a highly intelligent buyer. All who do business at the Palace know this.
Although most of the Royal housekeeper’s purchases are made from samples brought for her inspection, she occasionally “shops” in the ordinary way. A firm is informed over the telephone an hour or so in advance that the Queen is going to visit its establishment, and a representative is appointed to await her arrival. All is arranged in the most private manner. An auto drives up, the Queen and a lady-in-waiting alight without ceremony and pass through the crowds of shop gazers, intent on Christmas novelties or the latest spring fashions, unrecognized by anyone probably save by the smiling porter of the establishment, who knows how to keep his own counsel, until—well, until the tempting opportunity offers of telling some fair Americans who have crossed the Atlantic to test our “Fall” prices that “the Queen comes to shop here, but you would never know it.”
The interest which the Queen takes in good housekeeping and domestic science has extended beyond the confines of her own household. She has shown her sympathy with the movement made to elevate the domestic arts into an exact science, being made by the introduction of special departments into some of the women’s colleges and schools. King’s College for 'Women, Kensington, is leading the way in this movement, and the Queen Mary Hospital, erected in the College grounds for the domestic science students, is a tribuate to the wider influence of the Royal housekeeper in promoting the study of the earliest craft of womanhood.
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