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Henrietta Maria and Elizabeth Cromwell were important political figures from the Civil War through to the Restoration. Initially, their power was derived from their husbands. However, both women remained important political figures even after they were widowed. The images and texts that circulated in this period indicate that Henrietta Maria remained relevant in England after the death of Charles I[1], and Elizabeth played a more significant role in the Protectorate than is usually accorded to her. The recipe books in question inextricably tie these women to the political movements they came to represent, and make inferences about the successes and failures of their public roles and more private domestic habits. In order to properly understand these recipe books, they must be read against competing Royalist and Republican print cultures and alongside broader studies of consort queenship in this period. Laura Knoppers has conducted a similar study of these cookbooks. While her article contains a number of close readings of the recipes themselves as a means of exploring women’s place within their respective households, this study will examine their public implications.[2] These cookbooks engage in the political climate both in the public and the private sphere.


There has been a great deal of work done on the subject of Henrietta Maria and the Caroline court. Specifically, Erica Veevers, Caroline Hibbard, and Karen Britland have studied the court as a performance space. They are equally interested in the image(s) of this court – as captured in paintings, poetry, music, masques, and so on. Veevers has focused on the royal couple’s political and religious beliefs, dynamics, and tensions as they were acted out at court and subsequently depicted.[3] Hibbard has studied court life and the place of consort queens, specifically Henrietta Maria’s active role within the court of Charles I.[4] Britland examines the role Henrietta Maria played in patronizing the arts at court as well as her involvement in a number of court performances. She explores the dynamic between Henrietta Maria’s political and cultural roles within the court.[5]

Fewer studies of the Cromwellian court have been conducted, and fewer still pay any attention to the role of Elizabeth or to the court and its imagery. However, Roy Sherwood and Laura Knoppers have both demonstrated that Elizabeth did play an important role within the highly masculine court. While Elizabeth is not the focus of his study, Sherwood does note the instances in which she played a part in the decorating and administration of the palaces. He also draws our attention to the ways in which the Cromwellian court mimicked the court of Charles I [6] with Elizabeth taking on the role of consort queen. Knoppers’ work in this area draws attention to popular depictions of Oliver and Elizabeth Cromwell from the end of the Civil War to the first years of the Restoration. Her work demonstrates that images of the couple and of Elizabeth were popularly circulated throughout this period. Knoppers also explains that the majority of these images were created and circulated by Royalist supporters.[7] This is especially relevant as Royalists published both of the cookbooks examined in this study. It also helps to explain why there are so few texts contemporary to these cookbooks that place Elizabeth in a positive light.

Outside of the studies concerning court culture are some important works about the nature of consort queenship within the wider cultural understandings of gender and domesticity. Both Anne Hughes and Amanda Flather have written books about gender politics in this time period. Anne Hughes has examined Henrietta Maria and Elizabeth’s changing roles as women, mothers, and political figures as determined by outside forces.[8] Flather takes on the domestic, social, and religious spaces specific to women in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Her study includes a discussion of the relationship between status and behaviour in these specifically female spaces.[9] This is especially relevant considering that Elizabeth and Henrietta Maria occupied similar roles within their separate courts, and acted out their roles in the same spaces: the palaces.

Felicity Heal’s work examines the ways in which patterns of hospitality, gift giving, and food, are linked to court culture.[10] This is key because part of the introduction to The Court and Kitchin of Elizabeth deals directly with her poor hospitality, specifically in relation to gifts.[11] Women of this period, especially queens, were expected to uphold religious morality, as is made evident by Malcolm Smuts’ study of Henrietta Maria’s Catholicism and the ways in which it was received. However, Smuts’ study, like many others concerning Henrietta Maria, focuses on the 1630s. He does not address her role after the death of Charles I. Nevertheless, it is clear that Henrietta remained an important and controversial religious and political figure in England after the death of Charles, as evidenced by her appearance in numerous texts, including The Queens Closet Opened.

There have been a large number of studies analyzing the print culture of this period. Specifically, there has been a great deal of debate over the successes and failures of the Royalists and the Republicans in manipulating public opinion through the dissemination of print materials, such as broadsides, pamphlets as well as political caricatures and poems. Judith Richards has claimed that Charles I and Henrietta Maria were divorced from the masses. She argues that images of them were only circulated among the elite.[12] Kevin Sharpe, on the other hand, claims that the court of Charles I widely promoted itself.[13] Mark Kishlansky agrees. Images of Charles I, he argues, have remained some of the most enduring depictions of the English monarchy, which serves as a testament to their successful dissemination.[14] Kishlansky claims that the studies describing Charles as hidden from the public are incorrect in their assertions. He points out that Charles was not only visible through his portraits, but he and his retinue were seen by many on their travels throughout the country. Other scholars have constructed a more balanced interpretation, like Laura Knoppers and Jason McElligott.

Knoppers argues that images were well disseminated; however, the images themselves were unstable as they fed into existing anxieties about the influence of Henrietta Maria and her Catholicism over Charles and their children.[15] McElligott argues that the successes and failures of both the Royalists and Republicans in disseminating print materials varied over the course of this period. He also points out that both sides forced one another to increase their respective production of images and texts.[16] These arguments are extremely pertinent to this study, especially when addressing the issue of why there is such a discrepancy between the abundance of Royalist texts compared to the limited number of Republican works during this period.

Examining Cookbooks

It is important to understand why these two cookbooks are useful sources through which to address and analyze queenship, domesticity, and print. Generally, cookbooks interact with the public in a different way than other print materials such as broadsides and pamphlets. While cookbooks were sold and disseminated in the same ways as other print sources, they were consumed differently. These books were bought and sold in the public sphere, but their recipes and secrets were used within the privacy of the home. Knoppers has explained how the construction of recipe books mirrors this move from the public to the private. As the reader opens the book, he or she moves from the cover to the frontispiece, to the title page and so on, retreating increasingly into the private sphere, where the recipes lie.[17] This point is made clearer by the trend in early modern cookery books to use words like closet and cabinet in their titles ― spaces and furnishings intimately linked to notions of privacy.

This idea of privacy and intimate knowledge should be pushed further; in opening The Queens Closet Opened, the reader is offered a glimpse into Henrietta Maria’s private affairs. Further, the cookbook invites said Queen into the reader’s private sphere. It is for this reason that these cookbooks were such effective tools of propaganda. Through the act of using the recipes, the reader might very well have felt a connection to Henrietta Maria as well as the family and court she represented. This connection is further evidenced by the fact that the frontispiece, a portrait of Henrietta Maria, is missing from a number of the surviving copies of this work. The portrait, we might then infer, was removed and kept as a separate, precious object – much like one would keep miniatures, which were very popular during the reign of Charles I.[18] Henrietta Maria’s image was something to be treasured and preserved within the private spaces of the home.

The Queens Closet Opened was originally published in 1655, during Henrietta Maria’s exile in France. It was then re-published with minor variations in 1658-59 after Cromwell’s death and Richard’s protectorate, and again in the 1660s during the Restoration. The author of the recipe book is W. M., who explains that he acquired the recipes while in the Queen’s service. Jane Archer has proposed that W. M. was Walter Monatgu, a well-known servant to the queen and a Catholic.[19] The recipe book is partly a response to The King’s Cabinet Opened, published a decade earlier in 1645. The King’s Cabinet Opened was a Parliamentarian publication of a selection of Charles I’s private correspondence with the Queen. The letters revealed that Henrietta Maria had a great deal of sway over the political scene in England. Not only was this inappropriate for someone of “the weaker sex,”[20] but she was also a foreign-born Catholic. Reaction to the publication of The King’s Cabinet Opened, and by extension the royal couple and more particularly the Queen, was extremely negative.

The Queen’s Closet Opened offers a counter image of Henrietta Maria. Instead of a domineering, overstepping, Catholic Queen, she is depicted as a good English housewife. Henrietta Maria’s portrait is very different from those circulated during Charles I’s reign. Comparing this to the many Van Dyke paintings of her, it is clear that her image has consciously been changed.[21] In the recipe book she appears more stern and somber, an appearance that underscores the fact that she was in mourning for her husband and was living in relative poverty in exile in France. This kind of dress also reflects the changing culture in Britain, where people were fervently anti-catholic and anti-lavishness; gravity and solemnity were valued during the Protectorate.[22] It is clear that Henrietta Maria’s image in this cookbook was constructed to conform to the new cultural standards.

The Court and Kitchin of Elizabeth and The Queens Closet Opened were created for very different reasons. While The Queens Closet Opened does not, in fact, divulge any of the intimate secrets of Henrietta Maria’s private life beyond the recipes, The Court and Kitchin of Elizabeth has an extensive introduction that discusses in great detail the public and private failings of Elizabeth. The Queens Closet Opened was published as a means of endearing the public to their former Queen, and to the nobility and the monarchy she represented. On the other hand, The Court and Kitchin of Elizabeth was published to dispel any sympathies the public may still have held towards her.

The two frontispieces of these cookbooks very clearly present positive and slanderous depictions of their subjects. The former Protectress pales in comparison to the elegant and statuesque Henrietta Maria. While they are dressed similarly, Elizabeth appears more homely and simple, where Henrietta Maria remains regal. Elizabeth is sat beside a monkey. Knoppers has connected this monkey to the proverb, “the higher one climbs the more one’s backside is exposed.”[23] This clearly infers to the reader that Elizabeth was aiming above her class and ability. Below the image it is written “From feigned glory & Usurped Throne / And all the Greatnesse to me falsly shown / And from the Arts of Government set free / See how Protectresse & a Drudge agree.”[24] This caption drives home the message that Elizabeth was a common woman who played at queen, but could never actually be one.

The introductions to these cookery books were key, as they were used by the authors and publishers to present and defend the contents of the book. The political point of view of The Queens Closet Opened is clear from the very beginning of its short introduction. Addressed “To the Ingenious & Courteous Reader,” the text calls for an audience of a certain intellectual and moral standing and claims credibility based on the type of person who would read it. The introduction claims that the recipe book acts “like the good Samaritan giving comfort to all it [meets].”[25] W.M. asserts that the recipes, specifically those pertaining to medicinal remedies, should be used by the reader to complete “good works, while they succour the poor, and give comfort to them in their greatest distresses.”[26] In this way, the book itself is connected to Henrietta Maria and her charitable acts as well as to the reader’s presumed commitment to poor relief. This text, then, promotes itself as a means of sharing secrets between equals, which in turn forges an attachment between the reader and Henrietta Maria and the other noble contributors.

By contrast, the introduction(s) to The Court and Kitchin of Elizabeth presents Elizabeth as a rude and unsuitable wife, mother, and Protectress. There are, in fact, three introductions to this book. The first is concerned with the Cromwell family and their “impudent personation of Princes.”[27] This introduction foresees and addresses its subject’s possible objections: “if she thinks she comes not very well off so; she is as unreasonable as her reduction.”[28] The author argues that her allotment should “be envied for its plenty and amplitude, far exceeding her former privacy, so that she is even yet a Darling of Fortune.”[29] The word privacy in this context does not refer to Elizabeth’s personal actions and secrets but rather to the space she occupies.

The second introduction focuses more on Oliver Cromwell’s actions, which are connected back to the “thrifty basenesse of his Wife [sic].”[30] Like its predecessor, this introduction emphasizes the great fortunes that were accorded to the undeserving Cromwells. The author claims that their flaws were evident to everyone: “their Fine Feathers had Swans feet, and their beautiful Mermaid, the fiction of Dominion, had the ugly tail and fins of a Fish.”[31] Elizabeth’s poor housewifery and household management are offered as evidence of the family’s unsuitability and explanation for its downfall. In this way, Elizabeth is cast in the same light as her husband and is deemed equally responsible.

The last introduction acts as a brief history of Elizabeth’s household from the beginnings of the Civil War to the establishment of the Protectorate. It shares private anecdotes, detailing Elizabeth’s dealings with household staff as well as her poor hospitality. The author takes great care to outline all the wealth and precious objects amassed by Oliver and his family. This is used as evidence against their claim to live as good Protestants. The author concludes, “my purpose, and instance the common ordinary diet of the Family, whereby the Reader will better perceive, and be perhaps advantaged also by the intention and nature of this Discourse.”[32]

Both of these recipe books were read by women within the confines of their homes. In The Queens Closet Opened, women were told to emulate Henrietta Maria, and her approach to household management. Here was a good mother and wife. The frontispiece was in line with this depiction, and was kept by the reader as a reminder of her example. The Court and Kitchin of Elizabeth, on the other hand, was to serve as a reminder of the consequences of reaching above one’s place and failing to uphold high standards within the household.

While these two cookbooks serve to augment the reputation of one woman while defaming the other, they work towards the same end goal of demonstrating what it is to be a good wife, mother, and queen. While these cookery books were written by men, they were intended for the exclusive use of women. They were guides not only to cooking, but also to the proper management of the household.[33] They also offered directions to the reader on how to live a more moral and upstanding life. This is why the study of these cookbooks is so important. Within them, the political goals of the Royalists and the cultural understandings of femininity and domesticity intersect. The Royalist court was centered on the King as well as his wife and family. The Queen and her children were important figures in the Royalist court; therefore Henrietta Maria’s successes as a wife and mother were intimately linked with the Royalist cause.

Court culture and consort Queens

In order to better understand what these cookbooks are communicating with regards to queenship, specifically consort queenship, a brief overview of the role of consort queens in this period is necessary. Henrietta Maria and Elizabeth held similar positions within their respective courts. Although Elizabeth was never officially a queen consort, her position within the court and her involvement in its affairs makes this label appropriate for her. It also brings up the important fact that the Cromwellian court, because of its strange position within national and international politics, was often forced to emulate the previous Caroline court.

Henrietta Maria’s influence on and participation in the court culture of Charles I was centered on her involvement in the decoration of the palaces as well as the production of masques.[34] For this reason, it is crucial to look at the ways in which Elizabeth took on this role in the Republican court. These types of activities were considered part of the female sphere, an appropriate area of influence for queen consorts. The queen consort’s domestic habits then were tied to Englishness, religious morality, and suitability.

According to Caroline Hibbard, Henrietta Maria played the role of the traditional consort queen at the court of Charles I. However, Henrietta Maria’s role increased after her first decade at court, once the royal marriage became more successful, and after the death of Buckingham, when the couple grew closer from the tragedy.[35] However, because the “royal marriage was as politically disastrous as it was personally successful, it is difficult to construct a consort model from the example of Henrietta Maria.”[36] As Hibbard points out, “She was and is seen as an alien who fatally divided the King from his people, and contributed to the onset of the civil war.”[37] Henrietta’s pre-Civil War activities then will be the point of comparison with Elizabeth’s consort queenship.

One important role of the consort queen was to increase the wealth of the court. Henrietta Maria brought over a great deal of furniture, fabric, and other luxuries from France. In addition, because of her connection with the French court, she was a political, social, and cultural resource ― as was the large French household she brought with her.[38] While Elizabeth was neither a foreign bride, nor a wealthy one when compared to Henrietta Maria, she did take on a similar role in decorating the palaces. With evidence gleaned from the court records of the Protectorate, Roy Sherwood maintains that the apartments at Whitehall used by the Cromwells were all furnished under the direction of Elizabeth.[39] In addition to the material wealth that a consort queen was meant to bring to the court, she was also there to provide a wealth of offspring and successors to the crown. This was her most important job, as it ensured the stability of succession. Both Henrietta Maria and Elizabeth fulfilled this aspect of their roles perfectly, as they both had many children, including multiple sons.[40]

Another aspect of Henrietta Maria’s queenship that has been much studied is the elaborate festivities and masques she helped to organize. Again, the Cromwellian court attempted to mimic this. The nuptials of Mary Cromwell were celebrated with a masque that members of the family were involved in.[41] While the masques and festivities of Cromwell’s Protectorate were a shadow of those of the Caroline court, they demonstrate that the Protector and Protectress, while formally refusing the crown, still acted much like a royal couple. In addition, in playing the exemplary puritan wife, Elizabeth was helping to maintain Cromwell’s reputation and give credibility and authority to his politics. Comparatively, Henrietta Maria’s failure to conform to the image of a good, Protestant, English wife undermined Charles’ credibility and authority. For these reasons, Elizabeth can be studied as an example of a consort queen, despite her having never actually worn the crown.

Part of the function of these recipe books was to connect these women and their domestic successes and failures with the successes and failures of the courts with which they were associated. In The Queens Closet Opened, the recipes are mostly of an English style and contain mainly “English” ingredients. In addition, the contributors of the recipes were familiar English nobles; a table at the beginning of the book lists all the contributors, of which there are many prominent nobles and doctors.[42] This was a means of demonstrating Henrietta Maria’s Englishness and her ties to the English court. The inclusion of medicinal recipes from the court physicians of Elizabeth I and James I also connect her to past English courts.

Like The Queens Closet Opened, The Court & Kitchin of Elizabeth was published by Royalists after the Restoration to remind the public of the horrible years under Cromwell, or “the Protectorian Evil” as it is called in the introduction.[43] In this book, Elizabeth Cromwell is described as crude, vulgar, and above all unfit for the role of Protectress. Her rustic habits are discussed in detail in the extensive introduction. At one point, she is deemed “a hundred times fitter for a barn than a palace.”[44] These assertions are supported by accounts of her failures in general household management and by the specific inclusion of such recipes as “A country way to make sawsedges [sic]”[45] which draws attention to her rustic habits and rural origins. She is also made foreign by the references to distant places and foreign languages, for example the first recipe is for “Rare Dutch Pudding.”[46] In the full title of the work, Elizabeth Cromwell is referred to as Joan, a name that was associated with common and lower class women.

Royalist and republican print culture

These cookbooks were part of a complex print culture made up of both Royalist and Republican print materials. These cookbooks had a clear political motive and were important tools in manipulating public opinion. Despite the fact that they were most often used within the confines of the home, their political messages echoed other texts published at the same time. In addition, these texts served to carry political discussions from public to private spheres.

During the early years of Charles I’s reign, a great deal of the material culture that was commissioned and produced concerning the royal family was classified as ‘high art.’ Great artists were contracted by the king to make paintings and miniatures, or to write poems and songs about the royal couple and their family.[47] Specifically, a significant amount of paintings were commissioned of Sir Anthony Van Dyck. In his work, the unity of the family is highlighted and the royal couple becomes more relatable, as they are depicted as parents rather than rulers.[48] As the peace began to decline and in the lead up to the Civil War, Parliament and its supporters circulated an immense amount of material. Confronted by this new opposition and the pressures that came along with it, the Royalists adopted a more demotic form of courtly propaganda. The Royalists established a number of printing operations across the country, whose materials were widely disseminated.[49] This new wave of Royalist publication did not abate over the course of the conflict or during the Protectorate.

During the Protectorate, there was a significant change in the Republican political strategy and print materials were not nearly as prevalent. This was in part because of a Republican objection to visual materials, like portraits, that had formed a part of the Royalist court culture they so vehemently opposed.[50] The production of material goods was in opposition to their Republican ideals as well as their puritan faith. Considering the way the Civil War ended, with a Republican victory in spite of Royalist publications, Republican forces determined that propaganda through print was not the most effective means of gaining public support.

It is important to understand that while there was a limited amount of Republican-published print materials, there were still a great deal of texts and images concerning the Protectorate. The Royalists took advantage of the lack of imagery of Oliver and Elizabeth, and filled the gap with their own depictions of the couple.

Throughout the Protectorate then, the majority of these images and texts that were publically circulated were published by Royalists. Highlighting and mocking Oliver and Elizabeth’s common backgrounds, Royalists managed, in some cases, to gain support from Republicans. Gillespie has argued that Elizabeth in particular drew criticism from both sides, “For Republicans, she was too royal, for Royalists, too Republican.” [51] The Court and Kitchin of Elizabeth is a continuation from the Protectorate era of the Royalist depictions of Elizabeth as crude and unsuitable.

It is also important to remember that this cookbook was published during the Restoration. The goal was not to undermine the Protectorate, but rather to strengthen support for the Restoration court. It can be understood that the decision to print material that emphasized the failures of the Protectorate during this time was in part simply a continuation of the trends in publishing that had been established in Royalist publications over the course of the Protectorate. It was also in part a means of establishing an understanding of the Protector as a Pretender to the throne and emphasizing that the true King had been restored. Royalist propaganda tends to highlight the disorder caused by the rule of Cromwell. He and Elizabeth are constantly portrayed as having brought chaos and conflict to the country. The Royalists emphasize that order was restored once a real king was re-established.

One example of this is The Devils Cabinet Council Discovered. This text blames Cromwell for the regicide and associates him with the Devil. [52] These texts also infer that his opponents, the Royalists and the king, are in line with God’s wishes. This sentiment is clearly emphasized in the introduction to The Court and Kitchin of Elizabeth when the Protector is repeatedly referred to as a tyrant and usurper[53] and is blamed for having printed libelous material “against the blessed Memory and Honour of our two late Sovereigns”[54] His actions and his failures in running the country are also tied to his wife and her poor management of their household.

Further, Cromwell is compared to famously tyrannical emperors of Rome, including Caligula and Nero.[55] The author discusses the consumption of “the flesh of Panthers, Tygers and Bears,” by the terrible Roman emperors, which “assimilated its nutriment in their Bestial qualities.”[56] Following this line of reasoning, Cromwell’s appetite, which was “very irregular & inordinate,” is used as evidence to support his “evil conscience.”[57] In this way, the introduction to the cookbook asks the reader to look beyond recipe instructions for further evidence of the Protector and Protectress’ negative traits. While The Queens Closet Opened is more subtle about its political motivations, it too suggests a link between a person’s diet and his or her disposition. It contains recipes to suppress melancholy or to revive the spirits.[58]

The recipes within both of these cookbooks contain fairly similar ingredients and instructions. For example, in The Queens Closet Opened the instructions on how “To make a Cake the way of the Royal princess, the Lady Elizabeth, daughter to King Charles the first” include “a pound and a half of Butter, six Eggs, (leave out the whites) four pound of Currants, one half pound of Sugar, one Nutmeg, and a little Salt”.[59] Similarly, in The Court and Kitchen of Elizabeth the instructions “To make a Cheese-cake the best way” includes “a pound of sweet butter, twelve eggs, a pound and a half of currants, a penny worth of cloves, nutmeg and mace beaten, half a pound of good sugar, a quarter pint of rose water, so mingle it well together.”[60] The separate contexts of these women within these highly political works as well as the manner in which they are represented make the reader look at the recipes differently, however.

Henrietta Maria’s recipes are presented as being trusted used as they are by the nobility and court officials. With titles that connect the recipes to specific royal family members, the contents of the cookbook are made credible and are attached to and imbedded in English tradition. In following the directions laid out in The Queens Closet Opened, it is possible for the reader to link herself to Henrietta Maria and to achieve the same standards of household management. By contrast, Elizabeth’s recipes are a testament to simple ―read poor ― taste. Unlike, Henrietta Maria’s recipes, Elizabeth’s are not provided by people of high standing or good reputations. In addition, when compared to The Queens Closet Opened, The Court and Kitchin of Elizabeth is very disorganized, mimicking the claims against her household.


The Queens Closet Opened and The Court and Kitchin of Elizabeth were political publications that served to support the Royalist cause. These books were widely read and disseminated, and The Queens Closet Opened was so popular that it was republished multiple times into the eighteenth century. While the recipes they contained were used within the confines of the home, their political message was discussed publically. Because these texts were published within the context of growing dissatisfaction with the Protectorate and the beginning of the Restoration, the clear motivation behind both was to gain greater public support for the re-installation of the royal family.

As the wife of the old King Charles I and the mother of Charles II, Henrietta Maria, in particular, was used as a key figure in Royalist propaganda. She was celebrated as the example of a good wife and mother and set in opposition to the figure of Elizabeth. Elizabeth was the wife of the first Protector, Oliver, and the mother of the second, Richard. Because of the similar roles of the two women within their respective courts, it was easy to draw comparisons between them. For the Royalists, the execution of Charles I had been treason to the highest degree. Because both Charles I and Oliver were dead when these cookbooks were published, it is their wives who are praised and blamed in their place. Elizabeth is portrayed, in a Lady Macbeth fashion, as the overstepping, conniving wife, pushing her husband and son ahead as she tries to ‘o’erleap’ her social standing. Henrietta Maria, on the other hand, is depicted as a true-born queen. She is well connected in the English court and has international support, especially from France.

These cookbooks stand as a testament to the importance of female figures within the public and political spaces of this period. However, these women were also able to cross the threshold of the home and enter the private spaces of the kitchen. In this way, by making claims about the good and bad wifely and motherly qualities of Henrietta Maria and Elizabeth, these recipe books also acted as good and bad examples to which common English women could compare themselves.