Perhaps the greatest of medieval Queens was Eleanor of Aquitaine.
As Queen of France then Queen of England, Eleanor had an extraordinary life. Mother of 10 children, including two kings (Richard and John), Eleanor was respected throughout Europe for her intellect and intuition. She had a good relationship with the Pope and in her younger days even went on a crusade. By contrast, in later life she suffered 15 years’ imprisonment at the hands of her second husband, King Henry II of England.
With such a colourful life and given the lack of medical facilities in 12th century E urope, one might imagine that such a woman might not live long. However, during a period when the average life expectancy was just 30-40, Eleanor surprised everyone and surpassed the age of 80.
Medieval Dessert Dishes Fit For A Queen
So what, you might ask, has this got to do with medieval desserts? Well, Eleanor undoubtedly attended many medieval banquets and when it came to the dessert, she probably enjoyed this part of the banquet menu as much as any other. Although medieval desserts were quite bland compared to what we enjoy today, they made good use of all the things that a wealthy, medieval household could afford. These included cream, almond milk, medieval wine and spices like cinammon and ginger.
Here are the kind of desserts that a medieval royal chef had in his repertoire of recipes and which Eleanor might well have savoured:
Fruit stewed in wine, honey and spices
- plums stewed in rosewater
- pear stewed pears in honey and wine
- dates combined with brown breadcrumbs, white wine, sugar, cinnamon, ginger and egg yolks
- pine nuts combined with toasted bread, honey and spices
In addition to sweetmeats, gingerbread was popular in medieval times. Here is my medieval gingerbread recipe if you would like to try some!
Cream custard tarts
- Made with eggs, cream and almond milk (get recipe)
I have read a lot about Eleanor’s life and, with her in mind, I came up with this rich and creamy medieval ice cream recipe. It contains one of Eleanor’s favourite foods – walnuts. All the ingredients are from the medieval era and the ice cream is actually a dairy-free recipe! A great idea for an unusual ice cream this Christmas.
Eleanor of Aquitaine spent a lot of time at Chinon Castle, often with her husband King Henry II and some if not all of their many children. Chinon played host to many a royal banquet. The banquet table below is from the same medieval era and helps us form a picture of how Eleanor and Henry enjoyed their banquet entertainment.
Chinon Castle is also where Henry II died and is not far from Fontevraud Abbey where both Henry and Eleanor were buried along with their son Richard (The Lionheart). Some of the atmosphere of Chinon Castle and Fontevraud Abbey has been captured in this wonderful slide show of images and great music. Enjoy!