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Essentially England News, May 2011 - Kings Can't Marry Where They Choose
May 26, 2011

Kings Can't Marry Where They Choose

A cheerful welcome to everyone who subscribed to Essentially England News during the last month! Here you'll find England news, site news, travel tips, reviews and our Recipe of the Month, all in one easy-to-digest email.

So, England had its wedding and everyone was invited. After two weeks of almost wall-to-wall sunshine, the big day started with showers, but that’s England. Our TV wasn’t connected up yet after the house move, and we were still without broadband, so I had to miss the entire event, only catching up now courtesy of YouTube! And never having been fond of big, flouncy wedding dresses I really loved the Alexander McQueen creation that Kate Middleton stepped out in. The lacy bodice and see-through sleeves really gave it something extra. And fortunately, this was a wedding where everyone was in harmony – not like the one I’m going to tell you about next.

A Little History: A Royal Wedding is Cause for Rebellion

Kings can’t marry where they choose. And if they do, they get into trouble. Edward IV was only 22 when he fell madly in love with a woman he met while out hunting. Elizabeth Woodville was spectacularly beautiful, with golden hair falling almost to her feet and cornflower-blue eyes. She was also a commoner – at a time when that mattered – without political clout and wealth. And she was a widow with two sons.

Still, Edward was caught and married her on May 1st 1464 in Grafton, a small village only a few miles from our new home. He kept the marriage secret, knowing full well that his cousin, the mighty Earl of Warwick, was negotiating for the hand of a French princess. But at the end, he had to come clean and face the music. It took him until mid-September to confess his deed, which he did at a council in Reading.

From all we know, the Earl of Warwick was not amused. And that’s putting it mildly. He could not forgive that Edward had made him look a fool at the French court and started to plot rebellion.

A proper soap opera followed: an uprising that swept Edward from the throne into exile and his wife and young children into sanctuary. A second coronation for the once deposed Henry VI and a bloody battle between the returning Edward and the Lancastrian forces. A battle that ended the Earl of Warwick’s life. How different history might have turned out had Edward not gone hunting that day in 1464!

Places to See and Things to Do

May is usually the month when shows, events and festivals start to populate the calendar. And once it's June, there are plenty of things to do in England. June 3rd sees one of England's most unusual events: the Cotswold Olimpicks. The oldest suriving Olympic games in the world feature contests such as chin kicking and pig racing – what more do you need to keep the kids entertained?

Book lovers should head to Witney in Oxfordshire for the Book Festival taking place between June 15th and June 17th. This event appeals to me for two reasons. One, I love the beautifully scurrilous TV drama series Midsomer Murders, and its creator, Caroline Graham, is one of the guest authors at the festival. I'm sure she's interesting to listen to. My other reason to visit the Witney Book festival is even simpler. I read A LOT, which means it's easy to get stuck in a rut, turning over and over to known and trusted authors. And while that's not a bad thing, it's fun to discover new writers and their creations every so often. So the guest list of a book festival is an excellent source of inspiration. Case in point, I've just ordered David Elliot's debut novel Clan, which sounds a terrific read. And I haven't even met the man yet!

Recipe of the Month - Castle Pudding

Castle pudding is the sort of treat most of us recognise, but nobody really knows what it's called. But when it's warm, the first raspberries are around and you want a 'lighter' pudding, then this fits the bill. Think beach and kiddies and sandcastles. The finished product looks just like a sandcastle, only it's made from vanilla sponge cake and raspberry compote.

There's some debate whether this pudding should be baked or steamed. There are recipes for either method, so I would say it's up to you. For me, steamed castle pudding is more of a winter dessert, to be served with lashings of hot custard. The baked version is lighter and more summery and goes perfectly with fresh raspberries and lightly whipped cream.

Castle pudding is a good choice when baking with the kids, as it is very easy to make and doesn't take long. If your children are very young, ask them to grease the moulds while you blitz the mix ready for placing in the moulds.

This recipe will be enough for four castle puddings. Apart from the usual baking paraphernalia like mixing bowls and spoons you'll need four dariole moulds or mini pudding basins. If that stretches your cupboards a bit too far, you can use ramekins, but the finished cake won't be a tall castle!


  • 2oz (55g) unsalted butter, plus a little extra for greasing the moulds
  • 2oz (55g) caster sugar (called superfine sugar in the US)
  • 2oz (55g) self-raising flour (or plain mixed with ˝ tsp of baking powder
  • a dash of milk
  • a few drops of vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • raspberries and double cream to garnish


Preheat the oven to 180°C / 350°F / Gas 4.

While the oven heats, grease the moulds with a little butter.

In a food processor, add the butter, flour, sugar, egg, milk and vanilla extract and blend until really smooth. Add a little more milk if the mix is too dry.

Divide the mixture between the greased moulds, then place them onto a baking sheet and bake for 10-12mins. At the end of that time, test your castle pudding by pushing a skewer into the centre of each cake. If it comes out clean, they're done. If not, cook for 3-5 mins longer and test again.

Turn the puddings out onto plates.

Lightly chop the raspberries. You can use them as is or lightly warm them until the juices run. You can even use bought raspberry jam if that's all you have to hand.

Spoon the raspberry mix over the puddings and decorate with a whisp of lightly whipped cream.

And Next Month …

Six weeks without a broadband connection means there's lots of work that's piled up on the site. I'm researching Romano-British food and it seems as if they poured honey, black pepper or fishy garlic sauce over anything they cooked. Once I get that all straight in my head, I might even share a recipe or two...

So until next month, keep well and think of England…

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