The Queen's Breakfast and Morning Tea As Revealed by Prince Philip's Intimate Painting

Prince Philip painting of the Queen at breakfast

Queen Elizabeth II is the second longest-reigning monarch in the world today and at 96 years old, she showed no sign of retiring from her royal duties, despite her issue with mobility recently. 

So what are the top secrets of Her Majesty's long life and endurance? And what food type she regularly indulges to stay physically healthy? 

You might be surprised, but according to her former personal chef and Prince Philip's painting, Queen Elizabeth II's meals are pretty much like just anyone else, toast and tea.

Image from Chambre d'hôtes

The British monarch may have experienced mobility issues recently, but is still incredibly healthy for her age. She loves spending time outdoors walking her dogs and riding horses, so all that fresh air no doubt contributes to her strong immune system. The Queen also eats a healthy, balanced diet.

Darren McGrady, who served the British royal household as a chef for 15 years, previously revealed how the Queen's menu is prepared in the palace. Her menu book is written in French (Her Majesty is fluent in French) and would be sent up to her each week, containing a wide variety of recipes. 

Former personal chef of The Queen, Darren McGrady

"We prepared the menus three days ahead so we could get the food in," according to McGrady. "Sometimes she'd put a line through it all and put something different - like if she was having dinner with Prince Andrew, his favorite was Crème Brulee with Sandringham oranges."

Crème Brulee is served when The Queen is dining with Prince Andrew

Darren McGrady left Her Majesty's service when he was requested by the Prince and Princess of Wales to be their chef. When Prince Charles and Princess Diana separated, McGrady chose to serve the latter at Kensington Palace. 

When Princess Diana died in August 1997, he refused Prince Charles' offer to be his personal chef at St. James' Palace, instead, McGrady moved to America and set up his own food business.

Prince Philip's painting of his wife

However, the most intimate revelation of Queen Elizabeth II's regular breakfast staples came from her beloved husband, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, when he painted her taking breakfast in 1965. The painting was posted by Royal Collection Trust this year to mark Her Majesty's Platinum Jubilee.

The Queen's Breakfast according to Prince Philip's painting

The Duke of Edinburgh, who passed away on April 9, 2021, at Windsor Castle, was a keen painter, he also loved the kitchen atmosphere and would often prepare breakfast for him and the Queen during summer break in Balmoral Castle.

Prince Philip painting of the Queen at breakfast
The Queen's Breakfast 1965 by The Duke of Edinburgh released by The Royal Collection Trust

In 1965, he made his wife his subject in his oil painting. Prince Philip's intimate portrait of The Queen while taking breakfast gives us a rare insight into what the monarch enjoys for her first meal of the day, as told through the eyes of her husband.

In the scene of Prince Philip's painting, Queen Elizabeth II was shown sitting at the table, sipping a cup of tea while reading a newspaper. On the table, Prince Philip painted a toasted loaf, a pot of jam, a teapot, and what appears to be a bowl of fruit and yogurt.

Prince Philip was a talented artist. Some of his hobbies: Oil and watercolor painting

The Queen's Breakfast according to her personal chef

The Queen has four meals a day according to McGrady: breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, and dinner. She enjoys a modest diet and likes to keep herself healthy. She has little interest in fatty food. However, she loves chocolates, especially at tea time. 

Her Majesty normally starts her day with a freshly brewed Earl Grey Tea served in a china bone teacup, without milk and sugar. Just pure tea. And she sticks with the British brand, Twinings, because it holds a royal warrant of appointment from her and The Prince of Wales.

The Queen wakes up at 7:00 in the morning and Earl Grey tea is served at 7:30 in the morning with a side of biscuits. She then takes her main breakfast at 8:30 in her private dining room in Buckingham Palace consisting of cereal (believe to be Kelloggs because it holds a royal warrant from the Queen), yogurt, toast, and marmalade.

Her Majesty is a chocoholic!

Her former personal chef, Darren McGrady revealed that Her Majesty is a certified chocoholic. She loves everything about chocolates and not a day goes past without a slice of her favorite decadent chocolate biscuit cake. 

Chocolate Biscuit Cake at Tea Time

During his royal service, McGrady said he would prepare a layer of Chocolate Biscuit Cake or Chocolate Perfection Pie for Her Majesty's afternoon tea break. The cake would usually travel with Her Majesty to Windsor Castle, Sandringham, or Balmoral Castle.

The Queen's favorite chocolates

The Queen takes her afternoon tea at 5:00 in the afternoon and this is where she indulges in sweets. Her favorite Chocolate Biscuit Cake or Chocolate Perfection Pie is usually served at this hour and is often accompanied by a pot of tea.

The Queen keeps food in her bedroom

According to McGrady, Queen Elizabeth II has certain foods she kept in her bedroom. Speaking exclusively to UK-based coffee and coffee machine retailer, Coffee Friend, McGrady said: "At Buckingham Palace, I lived above the kitchen in the chef quarters and nobody ever came and knocked on the door and said, the Queen wants a club sandwich"

The Queen's favorite chocolates

Adding that Her Majesty kept a bowl of fruit, chocolates, and some of her favorites in her room and if hunger strikes at night, The Queen just chooses one of those.

“The Queen loves afternoon tea, I would say it’s probably one of her favorite meals. Certainly, when I was there, she would sit down religiously for tea.”

The Queen's Favorite Tea

Her Majesty has not revealed a brand of tea or tea variety she is taking but it is assumed she is enjoying a perfectly brewed cup of tea from Twinings, a British brand, because it holds a Royal Warrant from her and The Prince of Wales.

Twinings had been the Royal Family's official tea merchant since Queen Victoria's time. Stephen Twining, the brand's director of corporate relations, and the 10th generation of his family in the tea business said: "As a company," he tells T&C, "we've had the honor of supplying every successive British King and Queen from that day to the very current day."

He's sworn to secrecy with regards to exactly which blends the British monarch prefers. "The first rule of doing business with the Royal households is of course confidentiality," he says, confirming that they do continue to hold multiple royal warrants.

The Queen in March this year at Windsor Castle

However, The Queen's former personal chef revealed that Her Majesty's favorite tea variety is Earl Grey Tea which she regularly indulges every morning and at tea time in the afternoon.  

Fresh, fragrant, and flavored with the distinctive notes of citrus and oil of bergamot, Earl Grey Tea has a calming effect. It is a black tea variety with a fruity infusion.

Twinings was founded by Thomas Twining, of Painswick, Gloucestershire, England, who opened Britain's first known tea room, at No. 216 Strand, London, in 1706. The brand was acquired by Associated British Foods in 1964.

Queen Elizabeth II

The Queen's tea habit was also revealed by another royal butler, Grant Harrold, who served as a butler for Prince Charles, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, and other senior members of the Royal family for several years.

“I am sure the Queen enjoys her Assam or her Earl Grey the traditional way, made with tea leaves in a teapot and poured into a fine bone china teacup. She will also use a strainer. It is also a myth that members of Royalty use their pinky when drinking, I have never seen that happen once.

The original recipe for Earl Grey Tea

It has been suggested that the Earl Grey blend, or "Earl Grey's Mixture", may have been named after Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey (1764-1845), who served as British Prime Minister between 1830-1834 during the reign of King William IV.

One legend claims that a grateful Chinese mandarin whose son was rescued from drowning by one of Earl Grey's men first presented the blend to the Earl in 1803. The tale appears to be apocryphal, as Lord Grey never set foot in China, and the infusion of bergamot oil to black tea was then unknown in China. 

Another legend claims that Earl Grey received it as a gift, probably a diplomatic perquisite, of tea flavored with bergamot oil, perhaps as a result of his ending the monopoly held by the East India Company on trade between Britain and China.

According to the Grey family, the tea was specially blended by a Chinese mandarin for Lord Grey, to suit the water at Howick Hall, the family seat in Northumberland, using bergamot in particular to offset the preponderance of lime in the local water. 

Lady Grey used it to entertain in London as a political hostess, and it proved so popular that she was asked if it could be sold to others, which is how Twinings came to market it as a brand.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip in 1982

Jacksons of Piccadilly, which operated a London Tea House in the 19th century, claim they originated Earl Grey's Tea, Earl Grey having given the original Chinese recipe to George Charlton, partner at Robert Jackson & Co., in 1830. 

According to Jacksons, the original recipe has been in constant production and has never left their hands. It has been based on Chinese black tea since the beginning. Jacksons of Piccadilly's tea house was eventually acquired by Twinings.

This tale is subsequently told on the Twinings website, as "having been presented by an envoy on his return from China".

"Earl Grey" in tea is not a registered trademark, thus, numerous tea companies produce their own versions of Earl Grey tea, using a wide variety of tea leaves and additives. But Twinings Earl Grey tea is said to contain the original Earl Grey tea recipe.

Health Benefits of Earl Grey Tea

Earl Grey tea is a tea blend that has been flavored with the oil of bergamot. The rind's fragrant oil is added to black tea to give Earl Grey its unique taste.

According to research studies about tea varieties, Earl Grey tea contains antioxidants that support heart health and prevent serious cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and high blood pressure. These antioxidants work to remove plaque buildup in blood vessels and the heart. They also work to prevent oxidative stress that causes cell damage.

Research has shown that Earl Grey Tea works to improve cholesterol and blood pressure. A study in Preventative Medicine showed that enjoying three cups of Earl Grey a day encourages the production of HDL cholesterol, the good cholesterol, and triglycerides in your body.

Could this be one of the reasons for Queen Elizabeth II's long life? We can actually copy Her Majesty's breakfast habit, it's pretty simple and easy to prepare. The brands mentioned below hold Royal Warrant from Her Majesty:
  • A cup of Twinings' Earl Grey Tea
  • Toast with marmalade or any jam
  • Fresh fruits
  • A bowl of Kelloggs cereals/cornflakes
  • Biscuits and Oatmeal cookies 
  • Yogurt

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