Thursday, April 8, 2010

"one lump of sugar or two?"

I have two things to share with all of you:

1)  I may be starting a new blog soon for Bushy Run Battlefield, the museum for which I currently work.  The new blog will be integrated in the 18th century rather than the 19th, and will be more specific in its focus than this blog is.  And probably more professional and straightforward and less candid than this blog.

That being said, I don't plan on ending this blog anytime soon.  The Victorian era is still a passion of mine.  I will strive to keep both blogs as updated as possible and as interesting as possible.  Methinks Unlacing the Victorians will be the more intriguing one for people uninterested in history, simply because it's a broader topic that covers social history.  From my experience, most people who like military history like social history, but it usually doesn't go the other way around.

2) Let's talk about tea parties.

I am currently working on a Mother's Day 18th century Mother-Daughter Tea Party for Bushy Run Battlefield.  No one has ever attempted such a thing at the battlefield before, probably with good reason- the individuals who ran the battlefield previously were all men.  Having previously gone to Mother-daughter teas with my own mother, including an 18th century one at Colonial Williamsburg when I was nine, I thought my project would be taken advantage of by the local mothers and their daughters who are looking for some sort of unusual bonding experience on that day.

The tea party won't be purely 18th century, but I have been researching as much as I can to make it so.  As I was looking, however, I discovered that the concept of afternoon tea was actually made popular during Queen Victoria's reign.  According to The Fairmont Hotel MacDonald in Edmonton in Alberta, Canada (and the numerous websites like it who have copied and pasted the following information from an unknown original source):
image source: Victorian Tea Lover's Corner
According to legend, one of Queen Victoria’s (1819-1901) ladies-in-waiting, Anna Maria Stanhope (1783-1857), known as the Duchess of Bedford, is credited as the creator of afternoon teatime.

Because the noon meal had become skimpier, the Duchess suffered from “a sinking feeling” at about four o’clock in the afternoon. At first, the Duchess had her servants sneak her a pot of tea and a few breadstuffs.

Adopting the European tea service format, she invited friends to join her for an additional afternoon meal at five o’clock in her rooms at Belvoir Castle. The menu centered around small cakes, bread and butter sandwiches, assorted sweets, and, of course, tea.

This summer practice proved so popular, the Duchess continued it when she returned to London, sending cards to her friends asking them to join her for “tea and a walking the fields.”

The practice of inviting friends to come for tea in the afternoon was quickly picked up by other social hostesses.
No wonder I find more information on Victorian tea ceremonies than colonial American, or even 18th century English ones.

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