TOAST­ING THE QUEEN

The Royal be­hind the hol­i­day

Windsor Star - - YOU - RITA DEMONTIS RDe­mon­tis@post­media.com Twit­ter @ri­tade­mon­tis

Just in the nick of time — it’s the May 24 long week­end. And boy, as a na­tion, we re­ally need a break. This Cana­dian statu­tory hol­i­day is cel­e­brated on the Mon­day be­fore May 25 in every prov­ince and ter­ri­tory.

And it’s in hon­our of Queen Vic­to­ria’s birth­day.

For many, it’s the unof­fi­cial start of sum­mer, cot­tage sea­son and an ex­tra day to sit back, fire up the grill and quaff the quin­tes­sen­tial cold one.

Just who are we cel­e­brat­ing? A Queen who was con­sid­ered the long­est reign­ing monarch in Bri­tish his­tory — re­main­ing on her throne for 63 years and 216 days — be­fore Queen El­iz­a­beth II took the ti­tle.

Nick­named Drina, later The Gob­bler (and you’ll soon learn why), born in Kens­ing­ton Palace in 1819, Queen Vic­to­ria died in the Isle of Wight in 1901, and was the last of the house of Hanover who gave her name to the era known as the Vic­to­rian Age.

Queen Vic­to­ria was crowned at the young age of 18, and barely five feet tall, she was se­ri­ous yet warm-hearted and lively. She had an out­spo­ken na­ture, an im­pos­ing rep­u­ta­tion, and a rather randy side with her beloved hus­band, Prince Al­bert — whom she pro­posed to, she be­ing queen and all. They bonded over mu­sic and sex­ual pas­sion that re­sulted in nine chil­dren, born al­most one af­ter the other.

Wid­owed while only in her 40s, she al­ways wore black in hon­our of her de­parted hus­band — whose death she never re­ally got over. When all was said and done, she be­came the sym­bol of the Bri­tish Em­pire.

Boy, could she eat. Vic­to­ria loved food, in fact her ap­petite was vo­ra­cious and fast — she could down a dozen cour­ses in un­der a halfhour. There was no such thing as hours-long ban­quets. When she fin­ished a plate — so did ev­ery­one else. Din­ner guests had a hard time keep­ing up with her, thus earn­ing her the moniker The Gob­bler.

Din­ners were hefty and in­cluded soup, fish, roast beef, dessert, fruits and much more. There were four to six cour­ses — with seven to nine dishes in each course. And, just to be on the safe side, a buf­fet of hot and cold meats was also kept on a side­board dur­ing the meal, just in case some­one be­came peck­ish be­tween cour­ses.

The Queen had a weak­ness for pota­toes — and rich desserts. Lots of them. Her sweet tooth saw her en­joy­ing cakes, pas­tries, pud­dings and ice creams, jams and jel­lies.

It should be noted she was also at the helm of farm-to-ta­ble eat­ing, as most of the foods were lo­cally sourced (ob­vi­ous for the time, even if canned foods were be­ing in­tro­duced.)

And yes, the Queen was also a lover of whisky. And Vin Mar­i­ani, a spe­cial tonic of wine mixed with co­caine.

Un­for­tu­nately, all that rich food and turbo-eat­ing gave her a decades-long case of in­di­ges­tion. And weight is­sues — the size of her silk pan­taloons were leg­endary, and said to mea­sure 59-inches at the time of her death.

And we can just hear her say­ing We Are Not Amused by that last bit of in­for­ma­tion!

It’s been writ­ten that, be­fore Queen Vic­to­ria mar­ried the love of her life, Prince Al­bert, she had a crush on Tsare­vich Alexan­der Niko­lae­vich Ro­manov — heir to the Rus­sian throne. The fu­ture Czar Alexan­der II was a guest in the royal house­hold and, for a brief mo­ment, there was talk of a com­mit­ment. It never hap­pened, but the two ended up com­mit­ted years later when the Czar’s only daugh­ter, Grand Duchess Maria Alexan­drovna, mar­ried one of Queen Vic­to­ria’s sons — Prince Al­fred. Which makes the fol­low­ing beef Stroganoff recipe apro­pos for Vic­to­ria Day cel­e­bra­tions.

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