TOASTING THE QUEEN
The Royal behind the holiday
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.