Mac and Cheese in 1736? The Stories of Kensington Palace’s Servants | History Hit

Mac and Cheese in 1736? The Stories of Kensington Palace’s Servants

In one of History Hit’s March 2024 releases, we delve into the untold stories of the people who worked behind the scenes at Kensington Palace, shedding light on their lives and the important roles they played.

Alex Spencer

12 Apr 2024

Kensington Palace is not just a grand residence for the British monarchy, but also a place where countless servants worked tirelessly to ensure the smooth running of the court. These servants played a crucial role in various aspects of royal life, from preparing extravagant meals to facilitating diplomatic visits and even caring for royal babies.

In the grandeur of Kensington Palace, the royal plates were adorned with delicacies that were considered worthy of a king. From potted turtles to puffins, the court enjoyed an array of exotic dishes imported from around the world. China plates, which were considered special, were used to serve certain dishes, adding an elegant touch to the table. These plates, along with the meticulous arrangement of the dishes, provided a glimpse into the opulence and sophistication of royal dining.


The Importance of Notebooks

One of the most valuable sources of information about daily life at Kensington Palace is a notebook kept by James Daniel, the head cook. Dan Snow remarks at how rare it is to have a surviving artefact such as this

it’s an extraordinary record because it’s his personal notebook

This notebook offers insights into the workings of the kitchen and the experimentation that took place. It includes little marginal notes where someone has whispered suggestions to Daniel, such as adding a certain dish to the royal table. Snow remarks at how some of today’s familiar favourites were also popular in the 18th Century

we’ve got literally macaroni and cheese, way back in 1736

And also how dishes would be transported and taught all around the world

we also have a German dish, we haven’t really worked it out (what it is), but the King and Queen (born in Hanover) have taught this English chef how to cook it

These notes give us a rare glimpse into the creativity and decision-making process behind the meals served at the palace.

Behind the scenes with Dan Snow and the History Hit production team

Image Credit: History Hit

Royal Presence, Diplomatic Visits and Courtly Servants

As important guests were ushered into the royal presence, they would ascend the grand staircase at Kensington Palace. At the top of the staircase, they would enter an intimidating room dominated by a royal canopy and the throne. This room served as a reminder that the servants were not just responsible for the practical aspects of running the palace, but also for creating formal situations where the king could receive his subjects and listen to their requests and petitions.

During the Georgian era, the power of the monarch had been curtailed by parliament. However, the opportunity to vie for the king’s attention at court was still highly prized, both at home and abroad. Dan Snow comments

Servants worked relentlessly behind the scenes, to facilitate the smooth running of diplomatic visits.

One notable meeting that took place at Kensington Palace was between a Cherokee chieftain named Tomochichi and King George II in 1734. This encounter was a crucial early meeting between a British monarch and a delegation of Cherokee Indians, symbolizing continued peace between the two parties.

The British had just established the colony of Georgia in America, pretty much on Cherokee land…We hear from accounts the Cherokees face was painted in black and red, and he presented George II with sticks with feathers on them, a symbol of peace.

It’s these kinds of meetings that remind us that the servants, the people who don’t make the headlines, facilitated meetings of huge political importance. Allowing Kensington Palace to remain a centre of power.

The Importance of Wet Nurses and Royal Heirs

Kensington Palace was not only a political and social centre but also a family home. The birth and upbringing of healthy children were of utmost importance, especially in the early 19th century when the race was on to find an appropriate royal wife for the surviving sons. In 1819, a healthy baby girl named Victoria was born at Kensington Palace, bringing great success to the project of securing a legitimate heir to the British throne. Victoria would go on to become Queen Empress, highlighting the significance of the role played by the servants in birthing and raising royal children.

Mishka Sinha showing Dan Snow Katherine Elliot’s portrait.

Image Credit: History Hit

 Taking care of and nourishing royal babies was a task entrusted to the most reliable servants. Wet nurses, such as Katherine Elliot (pictured above), played a crucial role in breastfeeding and caring for the young princes and princesses. It was customary for royal and aristocratic women to employ wet nurses,

It was mainly aristocratic women and wealthy women who did it (employed a wet nurse)

Mishka Sinha tells Dan Snow, as it allowed them to perform other duties and maintain their social status.

But, Sinha then goes on to explain that the role of wet nurse’s was also due to women’s fashion at the time. 

because then women wouldn’t have to adjust their garments in order to be able to breastfeed

Wet nurses were well-paid for their services, receiving upto £500 in the first year and continued payments for the rest of their lives. Despite the separation from their families and the strict standards of behaviour imposed on them, wet nurses were highly respected and held in high regard within the royal household.

The servants at Kensington Palace came from a wide range of backgrounds and played diverse roles in the functioning of the court. From the keepers of the ice and snow to the seamstresses who stitched elaborate court dresses, each servant had their own unique contribution to the palace. Through the examination of everyday items and portraits, we can gain a deeper understanding of the lives of these individuals and the hierarchies and inequalities they experienced within the palace.


Kensington Palace is not just a symbol of royal power and grandeur, but also a place where countless servants worked tirelessly to ensure the smooth running of the court. From the extravagant feasts to the care of royal babies, these servants played vital roles in various aspects of royal life. By exploring their stories and shedding light on their lives, we can gain a more comprehensive and vivid picture of the history of Kensington Palace.


You can watch Kensington Palace: Untold Lives now on History Hit

Dan Snow explores the lives of many people who lived and worked in the majestic Kensington Palace.
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Alex Spencer