Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Queen Victoria’s Nuptial Gifts (Part 1): The Cakes

Queen Victoria + Prince Albert's Wedding Cake
Photo Source: The Wedding Dress Blog

by Angela Magnotti Andrews

In the months preceding Queen Victoria’s winter wedding, over one hundred wedding cakes were ordered from various confectioners in London. Gunter’s Tea Shop of Berkeley Square was commissioned to bake fourteen of these confectionary masterpieces.

Assumed by James Gunter in 1799, the popular bakery was well established by 1839, when the Royal orders were sent. By this time, Robert Gunter (James’ son), “cook, confectioner, and fruiter” {Pascoe, p. 362}, and his cousin, John, were the managing partners and chief bakers. While the most elaborate of the Queen’s wedding cakes made by Gunter’s was reserved for the royal party held at St. James’s Palace the evening after the wedding ceremony, the other thirteen cakes were given as gifts to Princess Sophia (George III’s daughter), the Duchess of Kent, Princess Sophia of Gloucester, the Duke of Sussex, Viscount Melbourne, the Lord Chancellor, the Marquis of Narmanby, Sir John Cam Hobhouse, the Earl of Clarendon, Lord Holland, the Right Honorable T. B. Macaulay, and the Earl of Erroll. {Hope, Anecdotes, p. 724}

A batch of eighteen cakes was also requested from Gunter’s stiff competitor, Mr. Charles Waud of New Bond Street, London. {Pascoe, p. 362} Though it appears that Charles Waud filed for bankruptcy in 1833 {Cabinet Register, p. 441}, it seems he made a glowing comeback by 1840, when he artfully created what Ms. Eva Hope calls “chaste and elegant” cakes. {Anecdotes, p. 724-25} Ms. Hope further describes the wedding confections as “naturally and delicately fanciful,” absent the typical frippery {p. 724-25}. Abandoning the usual white mortar work, silver leaf, and cherubs, Mr. Waud molded the cakes into vases and baskets with architectural curves reminiscent of the Etruscan masters.

The cakes were “embellished with leaves, flowers, and fruit,” or with “shells and rock work, waves and ripples.” {Hope, Anecdotes, p. 724-25} Their only apparent flaw was that they were so beautiful that few would dare carve and serve them. Five of these divine cakes were sent to Lacken, Hanover, and Coburg, while those remaining were presented to Dowager Queen Adelaide, Princess Augusta, the Duchess of Gloucester, the Duchess of Cambridge, the Earl of Uxbridge, the Earl of Albermarle, Right Honorable F. T. Baring, the Marquis of Landsdowne, Viscount Palmerston, the Earl of Minto, the Right Honorable Henry Labouchere, Viscount Duncanon, and Viscount Morpeth. {Hope, Anecdotes, p. 725}

It is not clear from the historical records which confectioners made the remaining seventy cakes. If you have information regarding these other gift cakes, I do hope you will leave a comment and let me know. Be sure to include your sources, as well.

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