Farm News: New Research Suggests England’s Early Medieval Rulers Had a Veggie-Based Diet

April 28, 2022

Two recent papers argue that these 5th- through 11th-century kings and queens mainly ate meat during special feasts thrown by their subjects.

A new analysis of 2,000+ skeletons buried in medieval England suggests early rulers were more into vegetable-based diets than previously thought.

Pre-Viking British lords mainly subsisted on a cereal- and vegetable-based diet, with large, meat-heavy feasts reserved for special occasions.

These carnivorous feasts were the exception, not the norm.

2,023 medieval skeletons “found no evidence of people eating anything like this much animal protein” across socioeconomic backgrounds.

Researchers explain, “we should imagine a wide range of people livening up bread with small quantities of meat and cheese, or eating pottages of leeks and whole grains with a little meat thrown in.” 

The diet of the elites and the peasants, despite what was previously thought, was the same.

“It shows on normal days they were mostly eating bread and vegetable stew. And once in a while they would come together for a nice spread or a barbecue.”

In other words, veggie-based diets were not just for the peasant class; the ruling class, too, regarded crop foods as both important for nutrition and fit for a king. 

Next time it’s tempting to think of meat as the trademark of historic nobility, remember that kings, queens, and the rest of the medieval English elite ate their veggies happily and regularly, too. 


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