The Six Wives of Henry VIII
Catherine of Aragon Anne Boleyn Jane Seymour Anne of Cleves Catherine Howard Catherine Parr
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Tudor Times
Power Pageantry God & King Sports Fashion School Days Food & Feasts London, C. 1558

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Preparing for a Feast
Justus Sadeler after Antonio Tempesta c. 1600
Credit: Hulton Archive

This illustration shows a large, busy kitchen similar to those in many of Henry's palaces. In Hampton Court Palace over 50 rooms and 36,000 square feet were devoted to preparing food for the royal court's 800 to 1200 members. The royal kitchen spent most of its time preparing the main meal of the day -- dinner. Dinner, typically served at noon, consisted of several courses and lasted up to three hours. On average, a Tudor courtier would eat 4,500 - 5,000 calories a day, over twice today's norm. Beef, mutton, pork, rabbit and venison were the most frequently served meats. Poultry, including pheasant, pigeon, doves, and, of course, chicken, was also plentiful. For religious reasons, fish was consumed on Wednesdays, Fridays, Sundays and during the 40 days of Lent. For feasts, the kitchens prepared elaborate marzipan confections shaped as exotic animals as well as gold-decorated dishes such as Peacock Royale. In contrast, a typical farmer's diet was relatively plain: bread, cheese and eggs.
Which of the following made up most of a Tudor courtier's diet?
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