Friday, 13 June 2014

Elizabeth's marchpanes

Marchpane is an old name for marzipan; a dessert item which is made from sugar and almonds. Queen Elizabeth I was known for having a sweet tooth and therefore a beautifully crafted and decorated marchpane piece would have been an ideal gift for the queen. The detail and creativity of a marchpane, as well as the high costs of making one due to the amount of sugar which is needed, meant that it was usually only enjoyed by wealthy nobles as well as at the royal court.  

Picture of Hannah Woolley Recipe Book
Cookbook by Hannah Woolley, 1672

Gifts of marchpane given to Queen Elizabeth I at New Years celebrations;

By George Webster, Master Cook, a marchpanne, being a chess boarde.
By Richarde Hickes, Yeomen of the Chamber, a very faire marchepane made like a tower, with men and sundry artillery in it.
By John Revell, Surveiour of the Workes, a marchpane, with the modell of Powle's churches and steeples in past.

By John Smithson, a feyer marchpan. 


By John Smythesone, alias Taylor, Master Cooke, a fayre march pane with a cattell in myddes.


By John Smithson, Master Cooke, one faire marchpayne, with St. George in the middest.

John Smythson, Master Cook, 1568
John Smythson (1523-90) had become Master Cook to Elizabeth I by 1562 and later Chief Master Cook by 1575, whilst his wife Elizabeth was the queen's Laundress. John's mother Elizabeth Smythe had been Laundress to King Edward VI. Given the fact that John is recorded with two surnames, this indicates that he could have been illegitimate, and that his mother's surname was Smythe and it was only after her death that he named himself Smythson, means that his father's name was Taylor and he was not married to John's mother. The adoption of the surname Smythson in 1562 was perhaps a means to show his love for his mother and to honour her memory, but also to strengthen the link between them legally so that he would be able to inherit the property she was in control of. 
In 1562 John leased directly from Queen Elizabeth significant property in Westminster, which had previously been leased to his mother for life, who had died that year. The lease was to be for twenty-one years and included Vyne Garden, which contained a vineyard, as well as a meadow and close called Kechenors and Bergeons, Ostrey Garden and a close called Mylbancke which was situation within the grounds of St Peter's Abbey in Westminster
In 1572 John Smythson received a grant of arms; an indication of his ascension at court, which meant that he was held in high regard by the queen and therefore was able to obtain a number of properties and lands, which he could then pass on to his daughter. 
John Smythson continued to acquire property throughout his life; in 1573 he purchased ten acres of wood in Kidbrook in Kent, the lease of the church and it's lands of Worlaby in Lincolnshire, and the manor of Hide in Herefordshire along with lands in Hidehill, Aldon and Wintercote. In 1575 he acquired four acres of land in Eltham and Bexley. In 1582 John bought one third of a cottage and land in Eltham. 
John and Elizabeth Smythson had a daughter Elizabeth, who married Hugh Miller and had a son called Smythson and a daughter called Susan. A witness to John's Will in 1588 was Ambrosio Lupo, a prominent court musician - for more on this individual see my blog post on the Lupo musicians. John Smythson was buried in Eltham parish church in July 1590, where his wife joined him three years later. 

Master Cooks

King Henry VIII - John Brickett, who was pensioned off after King Henry's death in 1547 after serving
                           him for many years
King Edward VI - Richard Curry, who had been Edward's cook when he was a child, served until his                                          death.
                           George Webster, employed in Edward's kitchens after the death of his previous 
                           employer the Duke of Richmond in 1536.
Queen Mary I - Thomas Burrage, who had served King Henry since the 1530's and had been in 
                          Mary's service from 1547.
Queen Elizabeth I - Francis Piggott was given the position of Master Cook upon her accession; his 
                              father had been a yeoman cook to Princess Mary in the 1520's and by 1534 was 
                              her Master Cook.
                              John Smythson.

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