If you are a fan of modern high fantasy or historical dramas, chances are that you’ve been exposed before to the bounty and luxuriance of medieval royal dining. Feasts and other meals are always depicted to be the peak of hedonistic celebration, replete with music, dancing, and tables upon tables loaded with sumptuous meats, pastries, and cheeses. While these scenes are designed to look beautiful and luscious, they seem to contradict in some ways the harshness of the reality of medieval life.
So what did kings actually eat in medieval times? As it turns out, they ate a variety of different foods, and each choice of meal was heavily informed by the geographical qualities of their kingdom and what the climate would allow for in terms of cultivation and livestock. Some frequently consumed foods were:
1. Preserved Meats
While kings had access to fresh meat more often than those who were less wealthy, the lack of refrigeration meant that at certain times of year, eating preserved meat was the more sensible choice. Games as well as domesticated animals were treated many different brines and smoking processes to keep them edible and safe.
2. Exotic Creatures
One of the features of medieval feasts that you’re unlikely to find gracing modern tables is an abundance of strange and rare animals. Creatures like peacocks and swans were considered delicacies due to their relative scarcity, and therefore all the more appropriate for a royal meal.
While many contemporary meals still include some form of alcoholic beverage, medieval kings drank beer and wine for more than just their taste. These fermented beverages were safer and more likely to be free of pathogens than water, making them an essential drink.
In essence, the meals of medieval kings were luxurious but still took into account practical concerns. In this sense, they are not so different from the meals of modern leader around the globe.