I Ate Like a Member of the British Royal Family for a Week and Here’s What Happened
The British royals are my Kardashians. Reading about them (especially Princess Margaret) is one of my favorite ways to kill time. And there’s a lot of information about what the royals eat. Kate Middleton loves ceviche. Prince Phillip likes to grill. Prince Charles loves Italian food and wants everything to be organic. Meghan Markle likes red wine and roast chicken. The one who interests me the most, though, is the Queen.
Queen Elizabeth II is 93 years old and appears to be in stunningly good health. Of course she has access to the best healthcare in the entire world, but she’s also reportedly very specific about her food. We all know by now that the Queen hates garlic and won’t allow it in anything in Buckingham Palace, and according to several interviews with former royal chef Darren McCready, the Queen is very hands-on with her daily menus. She always has four small meals a day, and if she’s eating at home and not at a public event, they’re very simple, healthful dishes with lots of vegetables.
The Queen plans all of her meals in advance. Twice a week the royal chef sends a list of menu options, and she’ll cross off whatever she doesn’t want and approve the dishes she does. According to McCready, the Queen likes her food fresh, seasonal, and local. He said he could serve strawberries every day when they’re in season, and she’d be pleased. If he tried to put strawberries on the menu in January, she’d cross it right out.
Given my royal obsession, I’ve often wondered what it would be like to eat like one of them for an extended period. Would I take on a regal quality if I drank Earl Grey every morning? Would I suddenly have an intense desire to adopt a Corgi? In the name of research, I decided to eat like the Queen every day for a week — here’s what happened.
Here’s What the Queen Eats Every Day
The Queen’s breakfast is surprisingly ordinary. She usually has cereal with fresh berries, preferably the ones from her vacation palace. (Okay, the vacation palace is not ordinary.) Special K is reportedly her favorite breakfast cereal. She also likes scrambled eggs with smoked salmon. Her eggs are always brown, because she thinks brown eggs taste better than white ones.
When she has toast with jam, her first choice is homemade jam made from the berries at her vacation palace. If that’s not available, her second favorite jam is Tiptree’s Little Scarlet, a jam made from a special variety of tiny, bright red strawberries. I ordered a jar of Tiptree Little Scarlet from Amazon for around $12.
The Queen likes a gin and Dubonnet cocktail before lunch. (I am very excited about this part.)
Lunch is something simple, like grilled fish or chicken with vegetables. The Queen does not eat starches on an ordinary day at home, so there’s never pasta, rice, or potatoes.
The Queen has a glass of Champagne with lunch, another with dinner, and a third at the end of the evening. Champagne Bollinger and Krug have royal warrants for supplying Champagne to the queen. For the purposes of this experiment, I will be using Kirkland Prosecco from Costco because it’s $6.99 a bottle, and I am not actually the Queen of England. (I would still drink Kirkland Prosecco if I were the Queen of England. It’s really good, and at $6.99 a bottle it’s hard to beat the value.)
This is more like it! The Queen’s afternoon tea is appropriately fancy. She always has two types of sandwiches and an assortment of sweet options. Her favorite sandwich fillings are reportedly egg with mayonnaise, smoked salmon, tuna, cucumber, and ham with mustard. The crusts are always cut off. She also has scones, jam pennies (which are little round sandwiches with raspberry jam inside), or a bit of cake. Her very favorite cake is a chocolate biscuit cake that she likes so much she even travels with it. Prince William is also a fan, and had the same chocolate cake as the groom’s cake at his wedding.
As healthful as the Queen’s diet is, she reportedly has a major sweet tooth and really likes chocolate.
Like lunch, dinner is simple: meat with vegetables. The Queen particularly likes fish and game, like pheasant or venison. McCready says one of her favorite meals is Dover sole with spinach and zucchini. On Sundays she often enjoys a traditional roast dinner with Yorkshire puddings. She always eats her meat well-done, though, which I was not looking forward to.
I Ate Like the Queen for a Week, and Here’s What Happened
Right out of the gate, I think the Queen has the right idea about starting the day. As soon as I woke up, I made myself a cup of strong Earl Grey tea and a biscuit. Then I got to work making breakfast, getting everybody else up and dressed, packing lunches, and ushering everyone out the door. That first hit of caffeine and a cookie feel very “put your own mask on before assisting others.”
The royals drink their tea from bone china cups, not mugs. This is not a stretch for me, as I’ve been preparing to be a fancy old lady since I was 12 years old, and I already have a good start on what will someday be an awkwardly large tea cup collection.
Before lunch, the Queen enjoys a cocktail of one part gin and two parts Dubonnet over ice with a slice of lemon. Dubonnet is a sweet, wine-based aperitif. The version available in the U.S. is different from the one in Europe, as they’re made by different producers with different recipes.
I was not expecting that cocktail to hit me so hard or so fast! I drink stronger cocktails all the time, and I’ve never gotten so buzzed off anything so quickly as my first afternoon gin and Dubonnet. Is alcohol stronger in the middle of the day? At first I thought it might have come on so strong because I hadn’t eaten much beforehand — just a shortbread biscuit, a bowl of Special K with some strawberries, and three cups of tea. But then I realized the Queen wouldn’t have eaten much more than that either.
I realized should not have had the cocktail before making lunch. The Queen’s meals are cooked by chefs and brought to her, but I had to cook a chicken breast and two kinds of vegetables by myself, and all I really wanted is for someone to bring me a grilled cheese sandwich and another cocktail.
I also don’t think I know how to cook without garlic. I cooked a simple chicken breast with salt, pepper, and olive oil, and I was about to sauté some spinach before I remembered the no-garlic rule and groaned. So I tossed the baby spinach leaves with salt, pepper, and olive oil and shaved some Parmesan over it for a simple salad, and ate that with the chicken and some roasted carrots with a glass of Prosecco.
Between the Dubonnet cocktail and the sparkling wine, I got nothing done for the next three hours. I was working from home that day and expected to send some emails and make some story notes after lunch. But I lost an hour-and-a-half to Internet memes, and my story notes just turned into a one-act play between me and a talking glass of Champagne that represented my moral compass. I was basically useless until tea time.
I was skeptical about tea time. I love a nice afternoon tea at a swanky hotel, but the idea of having another sandwich and some pastries at 3 p.m. every day seemed like a lot of food. “Afternoon tea” sounded like a fancy way of saying “second lunch,” and I was sure it was going to spoil my dinner. But when my first tea time came, I wasn’t too full from lunch to eat it — I was actually pretty hungry after the small lunch of chicken and vegetables.
I made myself another pot of Earl Grey tea and tried to arrange an attractive spread of one-inch square salted caramel brownies and egg-and-mayonnaise sandwiches with the crusts cut off. That’s when I realized this isn’t a full lunch, and I eat a little meal between lunch and dinner almost every day. At around 3 p.m. every day, everyone I work with takes a short break for coffee, sodas, and a quick vending machine run. That’s afternoon tea! A cup of strong tea and a little sandwich might seem fancier than a candy bar and a diet soda, but it’s basically the same meal.
For dinner I roasted duck breast with an orange glaze and served it with asparagus and green beans. I finished the day with one more glass of sparkling wine while watching TV.
I was so looking forward to a cup of tea and a biscuit that I actually got out of bed without hitting snooze this morning. All the biscuits are hidden in my tea cupboard, where my husband and child can’t find and eat them. I bet the Queen doesn’t have to hide her cookies. Eating the Queen’s biscuits probably earns you a one-way ticket to the Tower of London.
Today I tried buttered toast with the Queen’s favorite jam, Tiptree’s Little Scarlet, which is also James Bond’s favorite jam in the Ian Fleming books. It’s interesting to spread, because the strawberries are all about the size of my thumbnail, and they’re basically whole in the jar. The jam is sweeter than I expected, though, and it tastes more like sugar than berries to me. I generally buy jam that doesn’t have any sugar added to it, though, so I think I’m just out of the habit of eating sweetened jam.
I made a point of making lunch before starting the cocktails, so all I had to do was heat it up when I was ready to eat it, instead of having to cook a full meal while buzzing on Dubonnet and gin.
Lunch was some leftover duck from the night before, with another spinach salad and some smashed cucumbers. The Queen really eats a lot of vegetables! It’s getting a little difficult to keep up with her. Two different vegetables per meal, twice a day, is tough to buy and cook on my normal schedule. I think it’d be a lot easier to eat healthfully on the Queen’s budget. I’ve often said that if I were private-chef rich, I would hire people to just cook vegetables for me all day, and that’s basically what the Queen does.
I was very excited about tea today, because my husband made the Queen’s favorite cake. It’s a very simple recipe; you don’t even bake it. Start by breaking up some McVitie’s Rich tea biscuits into pieces. (I bought the biscuits on Amazon.) Then cream together some butter and sugar, add an egg, then some melted dark chocolate. Fold the biscuits into the mixture, then spread it into a small greased ring pan and refrigerate it for at least three hours. Once it’s set, take it out and pour melted dark chocolate over the top and spread it evenly to create a chocolate shell. Then let it set at room temperature and decorate the top with some more chocolate.
It’s very sweet, and very rich. It tastes like if you crumbled cookies into a bowl of chocolate frosting and ate it with a spoon. Even a tiny piece is extremely filling. My entire mouth tasted like it was coated in chocolate afterwards.
Dinner was pan-seared salmon with sautéed spinach and roasted zucchini. I’m having trouble believing that the Queen really doesn’t eat garlic at all. The spinach would have been so much better with a bit of garlic! I wonder if the chefs at Buckingham Palace secretly sneak a bit of garlic into things and hope she doesn’t notice.
I just call cookies biscuits now.
For breakfast I made scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and capers. It felt very fancy for a Wednesday morning. It was quick and easy to make, and I don’t know why I don’t make that sort of thing more often.
I got more accomplished than usual this morning and felt very proud of myself. My increased productivity might be due to the healthful breakfast, but I might just have used my time better because I knew I’d be dead weight from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
For all my grousing, I quite enjoyed all the afternoon cocktails and glasses of Champagne this week. They reminded me of being on vacation in Italy. The part I did not like was the two bleak hours afterwards when I was sleepy and wanted a nap. If I could take an afternoon nap or relax for a bit in the middle of the day instead of going back to work, I’d want lunch cocktails every day.
Lunch was chicken with green beans and broccoli. I thought I had enough berries and vegetables to last the week, but I ran out by day three and had to go back to the store. I wish I had a household staff like the Queen. While I was at the grocery store I saw a big jar of kimchi and I wanted it like a kid in the candy aisle. I love the Queen’s healthful diet, but she could really use some more spices.
In an attempt to wake up after lunch, I drank almost a whole pot of Earl Grey while making the food for afternoon tea, so I had to make a second one. I had salmon salad sandwiches and another small slice of the Queen’s chocolate cake. I definitely, definitely drank too much tea and was about to vibrate right out of my chair.
One of the Queen’s favorite meals is Dover sole with spinach. That’s one of my favorite things to eat as well, but apparently I can’t buy Dover sole in my town, so I made halibut instead, with roasted broccoli and bell peppers.
I want to buy some more swanky tea cups. I’ve used my fanciest cup almost every day now, and I think I need five or six more, just so I can rotate them. Someone got to my cookies, though. Off with their heads! Next time I’ll get one of those blue tins of butter cookies that always have sewing supplies in them, and hide the tin with my sewing supplies. Nobody would think to look for cookies there.
Breakfast was yogurt with fresh berries and some toast with Little Scarlet jam.
I had to skip the afternoon cocktails today. I had a meeting right after lunch, and I did not want to show up buzzing on Dubonnet and saying, “The Queen does it!” My boss is cool, but that’d be a lot to justify.
Lunch was roasted chicken with a quick salad made of cherry tomatoes and smashed cucumbers, tossed together with a bit of salt, pepper, olive oil, and red wine vinegar. It’s really good, and this was simple. I could eat like this every day when working from home.
Today I made a critical tea sandwich error. Cutting the crusts off felt wasteful and fussy, so I left them on and just cut the whole sandwich into little triangles. But a full-sized sandwich turned out to be way too much food for 3 p.m., and I was not at all hungry when it was time for dinner. It turns out there’s a logic to those fussy little crustless sandwiches after all!
Dinner was at my parents’ house, and they made Ina Garten’s slow-roasted filet of beef with basil mayonnaise and asparagus. They left out the garlic, but it was still good. I was very bitter about having to eat the well-done ends of the tenderloin when everybody else got perfectly cooked medium-rare slices from the center, but it’s cooked so low and slow the meat was still nice and tender, even if it was cooked all the way through. They served an apple galette — a rustic apple tart that’s basically just sliced apples baked on a thin, rolled-out pie crust — for dessert.
I am ready to eat a bulb of garlic whole. Can Camilla come over for dinner tonight? The Duchess of Cornwall reportedly loves spicy food and garlic, and Prince Charles is a huge fan of Italian food. I’d kill for a good, spicy pasta full of garlic and shellfish right now.
Breakfast was oatmeal with fresh strawberries and blueberries.
It’s Dubonnet o’clock! I spend lunchtime fantasizing about buying a Corgi puppy, or maybe three or five of them, so they wouldn’t get lonely. Lunch was leftover beef tenderloin reheated until it was well-done. (Sorry, Ina.) I had asparagus and sliced tomatoes on the side, with a glass of Champagne.
I had to buy some storage boxes for the kitchen, so my husband gave me a ride to the hardware store. I immediately walked in, pointed at the most expensive ones, and said, “I want those!” even though it was really the Champagne talking. (They were only $20 more than the less cute boxes, but still I felt very Queenly.) I briefly considered using that light buzz as an excuse to buy the $1,200 Phylrich dolphin-shaped gold faucets I’ve been wanting for my powder room, but my Champagne said, “That’s a Krug purchase, and we both know I’m really Kirkland Prosecco.”
Afternoon tea is the best meal of the day. I made egg-and-mayonnaise sandwiches and had a sliver of apple galette. I’m very fortunate to have a freezer full of fancy desserts, most of which are leftovers from my parents’ house.
Dinner was seared pork chops with snow peas and corn. I still had three-quarters of the Queen’s favorite cake to go, so I ate a tiny slice for dessert. It’s much better with Champagne, but it’s still so rich I think one bite could cure a person’s chocolate cravings for a month.
For breakfast today I made soft-boiled eggs in egg cups. I used to make these all the time, but I stopped when my 5-year-old started refusing to eat them. Prince Charles is reportedly very fussy about how his eggs are cooked. He wants the egg boiled for exactly four minutes, not a second more or less, so I do mine that way.
This is probably not something that the Queen would do, but whenever I make soft-boiled eggs, I scoop them out of their shells with a baby spoon — the kind you give a small child that is just learning to eat with utensils. Baby spoons are smaller than teaspoons, and I think they make it a lot easier to scoop the egg without breaking the shell than with metal spoons.
After breakfast, I go around the house collecting cups of tea. Apparently I’ve been setting them down and forgetting about them all week, and now there are cups of cold tea in every room of the house. I bet the Queen has someone on staff who picks up all the cups she leaves behind.
Lunch is glazed chicken thighs with roasted Brussels sprouts and carrots. There’s been a lot of chicken this week, but personally, I find the Queen’s diet much more enjoyable while eating chicken and fish than well-done beef. The Queen reportedly eats very small portions, and I find myself wondering if she eats her meat well-done for portion control. It’s a lot easier to stop eating a steak when it’s been overcooked to utter mediocrity.
Today my 5-year-old saw me preparing afternoon tea, and she thought it was the best thing she’d ever seen. Tiny tuna sandwiches with the crusts cut off and dessert in the middle of the day? She’s sold.
Dinner was at a seafood restaurant tonight, and I finally got my grilled Dover sole. I’d been waiting all week for this. It even came with spinach and zucchini.
This was the last day of my experiment, and I was both relieved and sad to see it go.
The day started with tea and a biscuit, then a breakfast of Special K and fresh berries. I had a bittersweet moment measuring out my last gin and Dubonnet, thinking: “Goodbye, afternoon drinking! I’ll miss you most of all!” (I never did get used to those lunchtime cocktails, and I’m still bewildered by how much they affected me.)
I decided to end the week with a traditional roast dinner, which the royals reportedly enjoy just as much as everybody else. I bought an English roast from the grocery butcher and cooked that with carrots and green beans. I even made Yorkshire puddings for the first time in my entire life. I definitely see why most people make this only on Sundays, because it felt like it took the whole day to cook, and like I spent the whole day yelling, “Almost!” at people asking me if dinner was finished yet.
My Thoughts on Eating Like a Royal for a Week
If I had the Queen’s resources, I think I’d eat like the Queen, too. Can you imagine planning your whole diet several days in advance, and then people would just bring everything to you? And clean up afterwards? Of course, I’d use more spices and put garlic in everything, but her vegetable-heavy diet of fresh, local, seasonal produce with simply grilled meat is the perfect connection of healthful and tasty.
If you don’t have a household staff, the Queen’s diet is pretty difficult to stay on top of. Four vegetables a day is a ton of vegetables to shop for, store, wash, cut, prepare, and cook. Two at every meal was a lot to take care of, and I started to run out of ideas and refrigerator space by day two. Although it did remind me of how Joanna Gaines said her secret was to buy a metric ton of vegetables over the weekend, then wash, chop, and prep them all at once. That meant she had a refrigerator full of vegetables that just needed to be tossed in olive oil and spread on a pan to cook. It’s not quite as good as having a full staff of restaurant-trained vegetable-makers like the Queen has, but it might work for those of us who are ordinary.
My biggest takeaway from this experiment is that I need to eat a lot more vegetables. I thought I ate plenty, but the Queen eats so many more. I might not be able to keep up with her majesty, but I can certainly add more.
Biscuits have also become an indispensable part of my morning routine now. I love having a quick cup of tea and a biscuit before everyone else in the house wakes up. And I will never stop calling them “biscuits.” I’m also committed to afternoon tea instead of a late afternoon vending machine run. I might look a bit silly bringing a container of tiny crustless sandwiches to the office every day, but it’s better than my previous system of planning to not eat anything, then getting too hungry and winding up with a candy bar in my mouth at 3:30. The Queen is 93 and appears to be in excellent health, so she must be doing something right.