The Queen as Cook & Physician: Culinary & Medicinal Recipes for the Home


The Queens closet opened. 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

London: printed for N. Brooke, and are to be sold by Charles Harper at the Flower-de-luce over against St. Dunstans Church in Fleet-street, 1671


Octavo: 14.5 x 8.5 cm. [12], 191, [9]; [2], 106, [4]; 123, [7] p. Collation: Signatures: A6, C-K12, L4 (bound after E4 in next sequence); A-D12, E8; A-E12, F6 (with blank leaf F6). A1 is the engraved portrait of Queen Henrietta Maria.

TENTH EDITION (1st ed. 1655). A reissue, with a cancel title page, of the edition published in the same year bearing the imprint: London, printed by E. Tyler, and R. Holt, for Nath. Brooke, at the Angel in Corn-Hill, near the Royal Exchange, 1671 (Not in Wing). 4 copies in North America: Countway, Michigan State, NYPL, Yale. The other issue is held at BPL and NYPL only.

A fine copy bound in contemporary calf (v. light wear). Contents in fine condition (v. light dampstain to opening lvs., title a little soiled.) Complete with the portrait of the queen.

Includes the additional texts: ’A Queens delight; or, The art of preserving, conserving and candying’ (Wing Q157) and ’The compleat cook: expertly prescribing the most ready wayes, whether Italian, Spanish or French, for dressing of flesh and fish, ordering of sauces, or making of pastry’ (Wing M94), each with a separate title page bearing the imprint: London, printed by E. Tyler, and R. Holt, for Nath. Brooke, at the Angel in Corn-Hill, near the Royal Exchange, 1671, and each with separate pagination and register.

"'The Queens Closet Opened', one of the most popular 17th-century household handbooks first printed in 1655, is a collection of medical remedies, advice on preserves, and culinary recipes claimed to be used in the royal household of the exiled Queen Henrietta Maria, the wife of King Charles I."(Pahta)

"In a striking extension of the process by which cookery books transformed foreign ingredients and diverse practices into distinctively English cookery, 'The Queens Closet Opened' assimilates the much-disliked French Catholic queen into English social networks, transforming her into a good English housewife."(Knoppers)

"'The Queens closet opened'advertises itself as a collection of recipes ‘presented to the Queen’ Henrietta Maria and ‘Transcribed from the true Copies of her MAJESTIES own Receipt Books, by W. M. one of her late servants’. W. M. has been linked by Jayne Archer to Henrietta Maria’s longtime confidante and advisor, Walter Montagu. Henrietta Maria’s court did include a number of physicians, natural philosophers and apothecaries such as Theodore de Mayerne, Sir Kenelm Digby, John Evelyn and John Parkinson. Their impact is apparent in the recipes within the collection: the volume includes, for instance, ‘A Purge by Dr. Mayerne’ as well as ‘Aqua Mirabilis, Sir Kenelm Digbies way’… 

"Like both Elizabeth Grey's 'A Choice Manual' and Aletheia Howard's 'Natura Exenterata', 'The Queens closet'comprises two volumes. The first, ‘The Pearl of Practice’, is devoted to ‘Accurate, Physical, and Chirurgical Receipts’; the second, ‘A Queens Delight’, contains recipes for confection, distillation and conserving. [This edition has a third volume added, 'The Compleat Cook', with recipes for preparing meat and fish, cooking sauces, and making pastry.] 

The recipes in ‘The Pearl of Practice’, like those in 'A Choice Manual', contain a mixture of Galenic, Paracelsian, magical and herbal remedies. Those in ‘A Queens Delight’ follow the tradition established by Plat and Partridge… In the earlier books of secrets, recipes were attributed to their makers in a way that assumed that a ‘secret’ is a result of a distinctive act of making. Following this tradition, many recipes in 'The Queens closet' are ascribed to physicians, apothecaries and members of the court and gentry: ‘Dr. Atkinsons excellent Perfume against the Plague’, ‘The Lady Worcesters Medicine for the Greensickness’, ‘Dr. Eaglestones cure for the Small Pocks or Measles’…

"The volume also identifies its contributors by praising them as ‘the most Experienced Persons of our Times’ (title page). In Aristotelian scholasticism, ‘experience’ had meant that which happens all or most of the time, but for seventeenth-century English natural philosophers, it now referred to something that happens at a particular moment, in a particular place. It is this larger shift that, in the emergent experimental sciences, allows particular and artificially contrived events to become the basis of a new kind of ‘scientific’ knowledge. The ‘experiences’ that approve a number of these recipes refer to particular moments of efficacy: we are given ‘A drink for the Plague or Pestilent Feaver proved by the Countess of Arundel in the year 1603’ as well as ‘A Medicine for a Dropsie approved by the Lady Hobby, who was cured her self by it ’. … 'The Queens closet'is a courtly recipe book that both evokes a lost ideal of healing and anticipates a philosophical shift from art to science, from experience to proof."(Elizabeth Spiller, Seventeenth-Century English Recipe Books: Cooking, Physic and Chirurgery in the Works of W.M. and Queen Henrietta Maria, and of Mary Tillinghast, in Essential Works for the Study of Early Modern Women: Series III, Part Three, Volume 4)

ESTC R236842. Wing numbers M101, M94, Q157