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King Richard’s Feast Of 1387

Richard II Feasting

King Richard II feasting with the Dukes of Gloucester, York & Ireland in 1386 (painted c.1480)

On September 1387 A.D. one of the most extravagant of the early Medieval English feasts was recorded. It was held in honour of King Richard the Second (Richard II) and the Duke of Lancaster (John of Gaunt). The list of food is staggering to a modern day audience, as is the number of dishes served in each of the three courses. However it does give us a very clear indication (and factual evidence) of what was made and eaten in a royal feast held for hundreds of guests, spread over three chambers. It was made and presented at the home of the Bishop of Durham in London and the solemnity and atmosphere of such an occasion would have been very serious. During the Medieval feast each of the three courses would have been served to a set of rules and etiquette, with the roasted birds and subtleties made to look fit for a king: the article Medieval Feasting Etiquette explains more about subtleties and the rules of the feast. To make many of the recipes listed see our Online Library for Medieval Recipe Manuscripts.

About King Richard II

RICHARD II, King of England, younger son of Edward the Black Prince, (by Joan ‘the Fair Maid of Kent’) was born at Bordeaux on the 6th of January 1367. He was brought to England in 1371, and after his father’s death he was, on the petition of the Commons in parliament, created Prince of Wales on the 10th of November 1376. When his elder brother Edward III died, on the 21st of June 1377, Richard became king. Yet in 1399 he was overthrown on a visit to Ireland, when Henry Bolingbroke landed at Ravenspur. Henry found only half-hearted opposition to his insurrection, and when Richard himself returned from Ireland it was too late. Ultimately Richard had to surrender to Henry, and this occurred at Flint on the 19th of August, with Richard promising to abdicate if his life was spared. He was taken to London riding behind his rival with indignity.

Not long after, in February 1400, he died, perhaps of the rigour of his winter imprisonment, rather than by murder, as alleged in the story adopted by Shakespeare. However, at the time the mystery of Richard’s death even led to rumours that he had escaped, and a supposed impostor pretending to be Richard lived during many years under the protection of the Scottish government.

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The Ingredient List For The Feast

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  • Xiiii oxen lying in salte (14 Salted Oxen)
  • IJ oxen ffreyssh (2 Fresh Oxen)
  • Vixx heds of shepe fresh (120 Sheep’s Heads
  • Vixx carcas of shepe fressh (120 Sheep carcasses)
  • Xij Bores (12 Boar)
  • Xiiij Calvys (14 Calves)
  • Cxl pigges (140 Pigs)
  • CCC maribones (300 Marrowbones)
  • Of larde and grece, ynogh (Enough Lard & Grease)
  • IIJ tod of salt veneson (84lb Of Salt Venison)
  • IIJ does of ffressh venison (3 Fresh Doe)
  • IIJ disson pullayn for Gely (60 Poultry for jelly)
  • Xjj dd to roste (144 poultry to roast)
  • C dd peions (1200 Pigeons)
  • Xjj dd partrych (144 Partridge)
  • Viij dd Rabettes (96 Rabbits)
  • X dosen Curlews (120 Curlew)
  • Xij dosen Brewes (144 Whimbrel)
  • Xij Cranes (12 Cranes)
  • Wild fowle ynogh (Enough Wildfowl)
  • VJxx galons melke (120 gallons of Milk)
  • Xij galons Creme (12 gallons of Cream)
  • Xl galons of Cruddes (40 gallons of Curd)
  • Iij bushels of Appelles (3 bushells of Apples)
  • Xj thousand eggs (11,000 Eggs)

The Poultry

  • L Swannes (50 Swan)
  • CCx gees (210 Geese)
  • L capons of hie grece (50 Fat Capons)
  • Viii dussen other capons (96 Other Capons)
  • Lx dd Hennes (720 Hens)
  • CC coppull Coyngges (400 Rabbits)
  • IIIJ Fesauntes (4 Pheasant)
  • V herons and Bitores (5 Heron & Bittern)
  • Vi kiddes (6 Goat)

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The 3 Courses are pretty straight forward, pottages and roast meats with pastry custards etc. what is not mentioned, unfortunately are what the Subtleties are … a Subtlety (or indeed an entremet), is a dish that is surprising in some way, the way it looks or the ingredients used in it – it is never as it seems – something to bring a wonderful spectacle to your guests. Records of other feasts mention what these spectacular things were, the Feast Of 1547 was truly wondrous, however, these spectacles were probably to do with heraldry and others Christianity, it being a feast thrown by the Bishop of Durham for the King of England, Richard II.

To make many of the recipes listed below see our Online Library for Medieval Recipe Manuscripts.

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The First Course

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  • Veneson with Frumenty – Venison with a thick, sweet porridge of wheat
  • A pottage called viaundbruse – A Stew Of Soft Meat
  • Hedes of Bores – Boars Heads (traditional at nearly every feast)
  • Grete Flessh – Great Flesh (Roast Oxen)
  • Swannes roasted – Roast Swan
  • Pigges roasted – Roast Pigs
  • Crustarde lumbard in paste – Sweet Pastry Custards Of Wine, Dates & Honey
  • And a Sotelte – And A Subtlety

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The Second Course

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  • A pottage called Gele – A Stew called Jelly
  • A pottage de blandesore – A White Soup
  • Pigges Roasted – Roast Pigs
  • Cranes roasted – Roast Cranes
  • Fesauntes roasted – Roast Pheasants
  • Herons roasted – Roast Herons
  • Chekens endored – Chickens Glazed
  • Breme – Bream
  • Tartes – Tarts
  • Broke braune – Jellied Brawn Of A Deer
  • Conyngges roasted – Roast Rabbits
  • And a sotelte – And A Subtlety

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The Third Course

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  • Potage. Bruete of Almonds – Sweet Stew Of Almonds, Honey & Eggs
  • Stwde lumbarde – Sweet Syrup Of Honey, Dates & Wine
  • Venyson roasted – Roast Venison
  • Chekenes Roasted – Roast Chickens
  • Rabettes Roasted – Roast Rabbits
  • Partrich Roasted – Roast Partridge
  • Peions roasted – Roast Pigeons
  • Quailes roasted – Roast Quail
  • Larkes roasted – Roasted Larks
  • Payne puff – Pan Puff
  • A dissh of Gely – A Dish Of Jelly
  • Longe Frutours – Long Fritters
  • And a sotelte – And A Subtlety

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What is most noticeable about this feast is how many Roast Birds there are and the variety of them.