The publication, for profit, of intimate details of the British Royal Family by their former servants is at least 350 years old. What may be the first example of this exploitation of “insider knowledge,” was published in 1658 by a former servant of Henrietta Maria, Queen Consort to Charles I. The book details the “Receipts” – recipes for medicinal cures and favourite foods of the Royal Family – contained in the Queen’s Closet. Some of the medicinal recipes are quackery indeed, and all the more interesting for that. Our first instalment consists of the author’s justification for his act of betrayal. Those who are familiar with the rash of publications that followed the death of Diana, former Princess of Wales, will surely recognise some of the self-serving notions indulged in by our author.
Opened:To those persons of Honour and Quality, that presented many of these admirable Receipts at the Feet of the Queens Majesty, the Publisher resigns them with his prostrate service whilst he breathes and is,
W.M.The EpistleGenerous reader,My particular Relation for many years to Her Majesties service, might easily, should I write my own History, rid thee of all scruples touching the truth of this Collection, there being few or none of these receipts presented to her Majesty, which were not transcribed into her book by my self, the Original papers being most of them preserved in my own hands, which I kept as so many relics, and should sooner have parted with my dearest blood, than to have suffered them to be public. But since my Sovereign Mistress her banishment, as also this continued change, being diffident of the alteration of these times, I could not deny the importunities of a person of Honour, to whom I was obliged, who got a transcript of one of he true Copies from me, but by ill fortune, either lent it or lost it; which I had never known from himself, but that to my no small amazement I found no less than two other Copies abroad; the sad consideration whereof forced me to consult with my friends, who all of them advised me to dispatch my original copy to the Press to prevent those false ones; for otherwise I should not have thought it less than Sacrilege, had not the lock been first picked, to have opened the Closet of my distressed Sovereign Mistress without her Royal Assent. But since that unfortunate miscarriage, I thought this publication to stand upon no ordinary terms of honour, as it might continue my Sovereign Lady’s remembrance in the breasts and loves of those persons of honour and quality, that presented most of these here Receipts to her.And now that my age will not suffer me, as I fell with the Court, to remain much longer in this troublesome World, I thought it my duty, if I could not do her Majesty further service, at least to use my best endeavours to prevent all disservices that might be done to her. I make no question, though I have thus faithfully vindicated myself, that there are some persons still left, that will view this Volume with a kind of indignation, that these Copies should be made public by a Servant, which were only entrusted to so sacred a Custody; I acknowledge, if they find any of them altered or corrupted by the failings of printing, I am exposed to their just angers, as some of their names are particularly affixed, but I hope my absence in the Country may in part plead for me against those familiar Errata’s, which are incident to all Editions; more especially since my infirm age could not permit me with my constant endeavours to attend the Press, insomuch that I must ingenuously confess, some Receipts are disordered in their placing, others false Printed; which kind of dealing I must impute to the more unfortunate customs of Printers, whose trivial excuses cannot free me from the highest misfortune that may befall me on this earth. Should my Royal Mistress be displeased, from the Bar of whose resentments I can make no appeal, but as I hope she may smile at the happy recovery of those Papers, which perhaps these troubles and her travels, might utterly have deprived her of, had not my diligent care preserved them for her Majesty’s review as also for a more general good.Reader, I am sorrowful that I have detained thee too long from thy more beneficial use of this Book; thank the times, not me, for otherwise these precious leaves, had never been in common, I have no more to write, but I am.Your truly loving Friend,
W. N.TO BE CONTINUEDNotesA copy of the original publication is held at the British Library which, with typical British lack of generosity is not available on-line. They will, very kindly, allow you to view the Title page, however. The Library of the university of Barcelona also holds a copy and they, with wonderful European generosity, have scanned it and made it freely available online here.