At 92, Queen Elizabeth II is still going strong. While many people her age have long since retired, the monarch continues with her royal duties. For years, the secret of her longevity has been under wraps. But now royal sources have spilled the beans about her diet.
When you think of kings and queens, an opulent kind of lifestyle springs to mind. Being among the richest and most powerful people in their respective countries seemingly gives them a free pass to do whatever they want. But is that actually the case?
Well, in the case of the British royal family, there are certainly some perks of the job. All of the immediate royal family are worth millions, while the Queen is believed to have a fortune of around $550 million. And to top things off, much of that figure is exempt from tax.
Furthermore, the Queen and her family are the owners of the planet’s biggest private art collection. Known as the Royal Collection, its works are used to decorate various palaces and stately homes in the U.K., as well as being loaned out to galleries across the world.
However, it’s not like the royals simply sit wallowing in their wealth. In 2015, for example, the Queen carried out 341 engagements from opening the British Parliament to traveling the world on diplomatic duties. Which is pretty good going considering that she was 90 years of age at the time.
Nonetheless, when she returns home from a long day meeting and greeting people, the Queen doesn’t have to lift a finger. She counts a staff of butlers, footmen and even engineers among her servants – not to mention an army of chefs to cook up whatever food she fancies.
In days gone by, royal mealtimes were a gluttonous affair. King Henry VIII is particularly well known for his appetite. The Tudor monarch enjoyed meat-heavy feasts on a daily basis, causing his waist to expand to a very rotund 54 inches.
However, it seems things are different for Henry’s distant successor Queen Elizabeth II. She likes to keep herself healthy, unlike her Tudor ancestor, who historians suggest developed a number of dietary-related conditions including obesity, gout and scurvy before his death in 1547.
While Henry died at the age of 55, Elizabeth celebrated her 92nd birthday in April 2018. Indeed, she has been the longest-reigning monarch alive since the passing of Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej back in October 2016.
Prior to his death, 88-year-old King Bhumibol had reigned for seven decades. Queen Elizabeth, who ascended the throne aged 25, celebrated 65 years of sovereignty in June 2018. She is now Britain’s longest ever reigning monarch and the planet’s longest reigning queen.
So what’s the key to the Queen’s longevity? Well, perhaps part of it lies in the restraint she exhibits during mealtimes. In 2015 the public were given their greatest insight yet into the monarch’s eating habits, when two chefs who had once worked for her revealed Elizabeth’s daily diet.
Darren McGrady acted as the Queen’s personal chef for some time before going on to work for the late Diana, Princess of Wales. And while Elizabeth II could no doubt ask for any food she wanted, she had little interest in indulgent grub or faddy foods.
In 2015 McGrady told The Daily Telegraph, “Sadly, the Queen is not a foodie. She eats to live, unlike Prince Philip who loves to eat and would stand and talk food all day.” So, it’s probably a good thing that Philip reportedly likes to take charge of the royal barbecues.
Instead, the Queen reportedly enjoys a fairly modest diet. She awakes at 7:30 a.m. with a silver pot of newly made Earl Grey tea. She enjoys her beverage of choice in a china cup without milk. And although she doesn’t take sugar in her tea, she does however indulge with a few cookies – or biscuits, as the British would say – to tide her over until breakfast.
Following her tea and biscuits, the Queen makes time for her favorite radio show – the Today program on BBC Radio 4 – while she waits for her bath. Once washed, she gets dressed and then has a hairdresser tend to her iconic white mane.
Once she’s ready, the Queen joins Prince Philip in their personal dining room on the first floor of Buckingham Palace. While overlooking the opulent gardens, the monarch usually enjoys her favorite breakfast cereal Special K along with some fruit.
If she doesn’t fancy cereal, the Queen might have yogurt with maple syrup or some toast and marmalade instead. Occasionally, she might share her breakfast with her beloved Corgis – the dogs apparently sit by her feet awaiting the opportunity to gobble up any dropped crumbs.
Every now and then, the monarch will treat herself to a cooked breakfast. “The Queen loved scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and a grating of truffle,” McGrady revealed. “But she was too frugal to ever order fresh truffles and only really enjoyed them at Christmas when the truffles were sent as a gift.”
As she eats, the sovereign briefs herself on the day’s news with a quick scan of her chosen newspapers. The start of her working weekday is at 9:00 a.m. and is marked by a 15-minute tooting of bagpipes courtesy of the Queen’s own piper.
Following breakfast, the Queen might spend her morning reading and signing official government documents. She might also use the time to read letters from the public or hold meetings with various dignitaries. When those duties have been taken care of, she’ll often get some fresh air walking her Corgis.
After working up an appetite, the Queen usually sits down for lunch on her own. At midday she’ll enjoy something light and refreshing such as salad and grilled chicken or fish and veg. She has a rule when it comes to her early-afternoon meal – no rice, potatoes or pasta if she’s eating by herself.
If the Queen doesn’t feel like dining alone, then she might ask one of her servants to come and eat with her. On other occasions, she and Prince Philip host informal lunches for guests. And, every now and then, she invites the rest of the royals over for a special family lunch.
Since traditions are important to the Queen, she follows lunch with afternoon tea at 5:00 p.m. At this time, she sits down to enjoy a spread of cakes, scones and sandwiches – all prepared with the attention to detail that one would expect from a royal household.
Owen Hodgson was employed by the Queen during the 1990s. And in a September 2015 interview with The Daily Telegraph, he confessed to having once made a faux pas when it came to making some tuna sandwiches. “A chef told me off for serving the sandwiches with crusts,” Hodgson revealed. “He then showed me how to make the perfect tuna sandwich.”
“Cutting the loaf lengthways, buttering both sides, adding the tuna-mayonnaise mixture and thinly sliced cucumber, with a crack of pepper,” Hodgson continued. “He then folded over the two lengths, removed the crusts and cut eight identical triangles. The Palace kitchen was all about the detail.”
According to McGrady, there should be a couple of kinds of sandwiches on offer at any high tea. Some of the Queen’s preferred fillings are egg and mayonnaise, cucumber, ham and mustard and smoked salmon. But she does have a penchant for sweet treats as well.
Jam pennies are a favorite of the Queen’s. These pieces of bread are topped with butter and jam before being cut into small circles. Elizabeth II used to enjoy them with her sister Margaret when they were children. And they remain on the royal high tea table to this day.
Given the array of food on offer at afternoon tea, the Queen often struggles to finish. “She didn’t always eat everything,” McGrady revealed. “She’d maybe have one or two tiny sandwiches, and sometimes the scones she’d actually just crumble on the carpet for the dogs to eat.”
The Queen reportedly sits down for dinner at 7:30 p.m. If it’s just her and Prince Philip eating, then this is a relaxed affair. They might enjoy salmon, grouse, lamb, mutton or beef – but whatever meat is on offer, the monarch will only eat it well done.
Elizabeth might accompany the meal with a Martini aperitif, but she doesn’t tend to drink wine while eating dinner. The Queen also occasionally enjoys a glass of champagne, although her favorite tipple is reportedly a gin and Dubonnet with plenty of ice and a piece of lemon.
After dinner, Queen Elizabeth might finish the day with dessert. At this time she often indulges in some strawberries from her Balmoral estate. White peaches from Windsor Castle are also reportedly a regular choice – as is chocolate.
Some of the Queen’s most beloved treats are chocolate biscuit cake and chocolate perfection pie. Meanwhile, a chocolate cake recipe perfected by Queen Victoria’s chef is still used every year on special occasions such as royal birthdays.
Another tradition the Queen adheres to, along with many of her subjects, is that of the British Sunday roast. Following a church service, she apparently likes to tuck into a joint – perhaps of beef reared at Balmoral or Sandringham – with a creamy sauce.
Yet although Prince William and Kate have admitted that they sometimes enjoy takeout curry at their home in Kensington Palace, the Queen doesn’t indulge in such meals. “She’s very old school with her meals,” a source told The Tab in 2018. “Her favorites are meat and veg, shepherd’s pie and, of course, fish and chips on a Friday.”
But while the Queen’s staple foods might sound fairly ordinary, her kitchen staff nonetheless have their tricks to make even the most basic ingredients more exciting. For instance, Hodgson told The Daily Telegraph, “When we cooked the Queen’s mushrooms, we always added a smidgen of Marmite.”
And there’s some room for maneuver in the Queen’s weekly fare, too. A couple of times each week, her head chef presents her with a leather-bound menu filled with meal ideas. She then goes through the pages, highlighting items that take her fancy and crossing out those that don’t.
Where she can, the Queen opts for locally sourced produce from the royal estates. One of her favorite meals consists of Gaelic steak in a creamy mushroom and whisky sauce. And it’s not just her majesty who has exacting standards when it comes to food, either.
Recalling one of his most vivid memories from his time at the Palace, Hodgson revealed, “I simmered rabbit, cooked down some chicken, then finely chopped the meat, sieved the stock and returned the meat.” For whom was he cooking? The royal Corgis, of course!
Similarly, McGrady remembers preparing carrots for the Queen’s horses when he first started out at the Palace. “Each one had to be finger-length and peeled to perfection,” he revealed. “If ever a horse bit the Queen’s finger, it was the chef’s fault for cutting them too short.”
So, while the Queen’s diet may be much less decadent than some might expect, there’s no denying that she still enjoys the finer things in life. But perhaps her self-control when it comes eating is one of the secrets of her longevity. After all, we can’t think of many other nonagenarian heads of state who look as good as she does.