Sunday, January 15, 2017

Victoria premieres tonight on PBS: Celebrate with afternoon tea and credit the Queen's friend, Anna, Duchess of Bedford

Rachel in front of Kensington Palace - our visit in 2011

For those of us still looking to fill the void Downton Abbey created last year with its final season, and who have already binge-watched The Crown, it's with great anticipation we have waited for tonight when PBS premieres its new mini-series, Victoria.

It seems absolutely fitting to celebrate this new drama with afternoon tea as it was Queen Victoria's friend and lady-in-waiting, Anna, Duchess of Bedford who is credited with creating this quintessential British repast.

The Orangery tea room on the grounds of Kensington Palace

The summer of June, 2011, Rachel and I toured Kensington Palace. We were in awe of being in Queen Victoria's bedroom, the exact spot where, on June 20, 1837, she was told she would be the new reigning monarch of England.

Another highlight of the tour was having afternoon tea at The Orangery, the beautiful tea room on the grounds of Kensington Palace. (It still remains one of our Top Five Tea Rooms in England.) Considering afternoon tea was a creation of Victorian times, it seemed essential to partake in one so near the childhood home of  the Queen.

But what inspired Anna to package up scones, tea and tiny sandwiches into an elegant mid-day event? It began as a solution to a problem. In 19th century England, the span between lunch and dinner for the "one-percenters" was great. By mid-afternoon, our poor Duchess suffered from what she described as a "sinking feeling". Basically, she was hungry.

To combat this, Anna began asking for cakes and breads to be served with her afternoon tea. She loved it - and so much so, she began to invite friends to join her. And, since this was Victorian times where more was more, it became not only a time to break scones with fellow aristocrats, but an occasion to show off your lovely new tea accouterments and fancy tea dresses.

Afternoon tea at The Orangery. Prepare your own for Victoria viewing!

So, my anglophile friends, buckle your seat belts, brew up some Earl Grey, warm up the scones, slather on the clotted cream and get your remote control pointed to your local PBS station at 9:00 tonight. Victoria may not completely fill the empty Sunday nights we've experienced since last March, but served up with scones, sweets and savories, (thank you, Anna!)  it should be delicious fun!

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