This is the title page to 'The Queens Closet Opened'. On the facing page is a portrait of Henrietta Maria, the wife of King Charles I. The author claims that the recipes in the book are the same as those presented in the Royal kitchen.
About the Queens Closet Opened
The Queens Closet Opened was written by 'W.M.' of whom very little is known. The book is divided into three sections: 'The Pearl of Practice' which covers medical remedies; 'A Queen's Delight' which examines confectionery; and 'The Compleat Cook' which looks at general culinary recipes. The book was first published in 1655 during the reign of Oliver Cromwell. Eight new cookery books appeared in this period, and The Queens Closet was a huge success, with ten new editions published before the end of the century.
Despite the relative stability of the commonwealth, there was an increasing fascination for the customs of the old aristocracy. Books such as these appeared to be opening magical doors on to the glittering secrets of the wealthy. On the title page to The Queens Closet, W.M explains that the book's recipes originate in the kitchen of Henrietta Maria, the wife of King Charles I. They are, he writes, 'incomparable Secrets in Physick, Chirurgery, Preserving and Candying, &c. Which were presented unto the Queen By the most Experienced Persons of the Times, many whereof were had in esteem when She pleased to descend to private Recreations.' It must be remembered that preserves and remedies contained expensive ingredients and could only have been afforded by the wealthy. So books such as 'The Queens Closet' claimed to be able to release the secrets hidden in the cabinets of the aristocracy.
Following the fall of the monarchy, many distinguished chefs will have lost their jobs. Historians have suggested that this may be the reason for the sudden wave of new cookery books at this time, as these professionals would have been searching for new ways to make money. These circumstances would also have enabled them to give away their trade secrets.