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Princess Diana's chef reveals how the royal family adapted during times of food shortages

Darren McGrady has also cooked for the Queen

queen © Photo: Getty Images
Aisha Nozari
Online Writer
March 19, 2020
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Princess Diana's chef Darren McGrady has shed a light on how the royal family have adapted during times of food shortages in the past. Darren, who worked as a chef to both the Queen, Diana, Princes William and Harry collectively for fifteen years, explained how royals such as King George V and the Queen coped during war eras, describing the family's approach as "fascinating".  

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Speaking to HELLO! he recalled how King George V created "elevenses" in response to food rations during WWI. Darren explained: "King George V was the one who started elevenses, [when] you sort of stop about 11 o'clock and have a cup of tea and a snack. He started it because it was during the war, food was being rationed, and people weren't getting food. So he thought if the royal kitchens made soup and fed the staff a big bowl of hearty soup, then when it came to lunchtime, they wouldn’t be that hungry."

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grounds of windsor castle © Photo: Getty Images

Produce is grown on the grounds of Windsor Castle

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Moving into WWII during the 1940s, when the Queen's father King George VI was on the throne, ration coupons were introduced until 1954, which Darren notes was just two years after the Queen herself came into power. During this time, Britain imported around 70 per cent of its food and the UK's imports were heavily affected by bombing. However, Darren continues, this didn't affect the royal family much, as the grounds of many of their homes were self-sufficient.

the grounds of balmoral castle © Photo: Getty Images

Balmoral castle

He continued: "[At] Windsor Castle, they had their own farm and everyone was breeding pigs, there was plenty of pork around. So they were pretty self-sufficient. Balmoral had its own gardens, as it still does today. There was all the venison and deer off the estate, and coming from Hampton Court and Sandringham. At the palace, soups and things like that were made, and meat was no longer allowed to be served at lunchtime, it was just for dinner."

This meant that the royals' diet included "lots of vegetables, vegetable stews and things like that". Darren elaborated that the increased use of vegetables resulted in some interesting dishes that the family still favours today. He continued: "I remember reading about one of the palace chefs back in that time, he used to make a cottage pie which was actually vegetables in a vegetable sauce and mash potatoes on the top, so it was sort of vegetarian food they were living on at lunchtime."

The royal chef even added that after her marriage in 1947, when the Queen was still rationing, she would have strawberries grown especially at Windsor Castle. Darren revealed: "When the Queen got married in 1947, she was used to this rationing, and in fact, her special treat was to have strawberries grown at Windsor Castle under covers in the greenhouse. That was her special treat to go on the menu for pudding during the war years." 

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