Back to Top

Tag Archives: Lady Cordelia

On Saturday, I partook of your charming American custom of “Mother’s Day” by attending tea at a lovely little tea shop with my hostess, her mother, and various other ladies. (My own dear, departed mother would have loved this holiday, I think–she was always in need of more face paint and bottles of scent!). It was not the same as the tea I served in my house, which my friends always declared to be superlative, but it was adequate. They had an extensive selection of fine teas (which surprised me, I must say. I deplore this “Lipton” business!), some nice little sandwiches, and a few iced cakes. In honor of this occasion, I will pass on some of my own tea wisdom, mostly gained from my own mother (who adored a lapsang souchong).

Tea was introduced to Europe during Elizabethan times, but as people then had no sense of what was good for them, it did not reach England until 1657-60. Even the barbaric Russians had it before us, and it was a Venetian named Gian Battista Ramusio who was the first European to write about the drink. (Very surprising, if you know the Venetians at all). It was at first a hard sell, until that most deplorable of monarchs (lovely taste, though) Charles II took up the habit of drinking tea all day long. It was among the least objectionable of his many habits, I fear. It was also very popular here in your own country until that unfortunate occurence called the Boston Tea Party in 1773.

Afternoon tea was not a fixed tradition in my own time (though I enjoy cakes and a refreshing sip at four o’clock as much as anyone!). Slightly later than that, or so I read now on this Intra-Net compooter, the Duchess of Bedford started ordering a tray of bread-and-butter in the afternoons, as she could not wait for the fashionable dining hour before getting a bit peckish. It worked out well for her, and she began inviting friends to join her. The bread-and-butter was soon supplemented by pastries, sandwiches, and scones. “High tea” is a different thing altogther, a full meal served around six for the lower classes, consisting of meats, fish, cheese, bread and butter, cakes (and tea!).

Here are a few of my favorite recipes, which I experimented with while my hostess was away at her “work.” Her food cooling apparatus is always quite low on the staples of life, so I made do with what little I could find.

Cucumber Sandwiches:
1 large cuccumber
White wine vinegar
Butter (soft)

Peel and slice cucumber. Sprinkle the slices with vinegar and let sit for half an hour, drain and pat dry. Make the sandwich with 1 or 2 layers of cucumber slices, on thin bread spread with butter. Slice neatly into quarters (remove crusts!) and serve.

Devonshire Clotted Cream (warning! This is not a true clotted cream. I devised this with the use of that wondrous blender)

8 oz cream cheese
12 oz sour cream
Juice from 1 lemon
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups powdered sugar
(Blend all until smooth)

Rose Butter (a most elegant spread for toast, sandwiches, scones)

4 oz butter
Fresh rose petals (pink is lovely)

Line the bottom of a covered dish with a thick layer of petals. Wrap butter with waxed paper and place in dish. Cover with more petals. Put lid on dish and let sit in cool space overnight.

I have read with great interest my hostess’ recent missives on the life of a lady-in-waiting. (I have also been watching with equal interest the little irridescent circlets on the d-v-d machine while Miss McCabe is at what she calls her “job,” though I see little sign of something respectable like governessing. Some of these circlets purport to be living versions of Miss Austen’s delightful novels. I have much to say about them, though I will reserve commentary for a future letter). This missive concerns my own youthful days at Court, before I married my dear, departed husband. There is much time to muse on those delightful days now, as I still am residing in Miss McCabe’s rather untidy cottage. When she is gone, I cannot operate the rather mysterious contraptions here (and she became rather cross when I broke the whirling blades of the, um, blender. I only wanted one of those delightful fruit concoctions called smoothy-s, which are much like some of the sweets at Gunters, near where I once lived. Ah, but that is another tale. Anyway, how was I to know one must first remove pits from peaches?). Fortunately, there are many books to read (though some are quite shocking! Have you read a tome called “Dedication” by Miss Mullany?), and I have my memories to keep me company until I can discover the means to return to my own home.

When I was a young lady, my parents sent me to Court to serve as a maid-of-honor to dear Queen Charlotte (a most dignified and morally correct lady, no matter what might be said about her in less dignified circles. The young ladies in this incomprehensible twenty-first century could learn a great deal from Her Majesty’s sterling example. Why, my hostess actually goes about with men without a chaperone! But the less said about that…) My time at Court proved to be excellent preparation for my future life.

A typical day at my duties would run thus: I would rise at about six, and be summoned to the Queen’s dressing room at half past seven. The wardrobe women would already have completed the preliminary stages of Her Majesty’s toilette, and we would help her with the finishing touches. I would then return to my room for breakfast, attend to my correspondence, and perhaps take a short walk before attending to the Queen’s midday change of gown. This would often take two or three hours, leaving only a brief time before attending the Queen on her evening preparations and whatever events were scheduled for that night (a ball or concert, perhaps).

It is true that the hours were long and the rules many, and a few of my fellow Maids (whining wretches!) had little good to say about the great honor bestowed on them. Yet I met my dear husband at Court, and learned a great deal about honor and propriety which Certain People would do well to follow.

Now, I must go, for I hear my hostess’ strange horseless phaeton entering the strange stable she calls a garage. I have to ask her again how one operates the intriguing gadget that pours out coffee in such a neat little stream…

Good evening! May I offer you some tea? Perhaps some seed cake? (I am always polite, you see, even when deeply perplexed). When I went to my slumber last night, it was 1810 and I was visiting my dear friends Lord and Lady Seaforth-Haigh-Smythe. I was most comfortably ensconced in their lovely Yellow Chamber (rumored to be haunted, by those inclined to romantic superstition), and when I awoke I found myself here. In the small (yet charming!) cottage of Lady Amanda, surrounded by almost as many pets as our own Duchess of York possesses and forced to sleep on something called a “sleeper sofa.” There is also this magical contraption, the come-puter, and its instant post.

I am confused by many things in this new abode (tea in bags? Horrors!), but I am sure good manners and proper behavior will see me through. In my own time, I am rather well known for my knowledge of etiquette. I even pen my own pamphlet, “Ask Lady Cordelia,” where many a bewildered soul faced with social conundrums has benefited from my advice. Perhaps I can be of assistance to some of you?

As I bide my time until I can return home, I am quite relieved to see that a house party has recently (and properly) concluded, and that these, er, “Riskies” at least possess some knowledge of proper attire and gentle pursuits such as music.

Farewell for now!

Lady Cordelia

Posted in Frivolity, Regency | Tagged | 8 Replies
Get every new post delivered to your inbox
Join millions of other followers
Powered By