Mr. Francatelli’s Cookbook

Amy Bishop

Black and white engraved portrait of Charles Francatelli
By Joseph Brown (1809-1887) (signed in engraving) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

If you have been watching Victoria on PBS’s Masterpiece, you may be interested to know that the palace chef Mr. Francatelli was a real person—and a cookbook author. Charles Elmé Francatelli, born in London in 1805, studied French cooking in Paris under Antonin Carême before returning to England. He held several positions as chef de cuisine and maitre d’hotel for wealthy noble families and various London clubs before serving as chief cook for the royal household in 1840–1842. In the television series, Victoria requests that Mr. Francatelli return as cook after the chef that replaces him serves less-than-appetizing dishes. The reality may have been the opposite: his short term working as chef for Victoria may have been because she and Prince Albert preferred plain English cooking to French cuisine.

Francatelli's New Cook Book. Francatelli's Modern Cook. A Practical Guide to the Culinary Art in All its Branches. Comprising, in addition to English Cookery, the most approved and Recherche systems of French, Italian, and German Cookery. Adapted for the use of all Families, large or small, as well as for hotels, restaurants, cooks, cake bakers, clubs and boarding houses; in fact, for all places wherever cooking is required, while at the same time, all will save money by referring to its pages. By Charles Elme Francatelli, pupil to the celebrated Careme, and chief cook to Her Majesty, Victoria, Queen of England. With sixty-two illustrations of various dishes, and a glossary to the whole work. Reprinted from the twenty-sixth London edition. With large additions, and carefully revised. Philadelphia: David McKay, publisher, 23 South Ninth Street.
Title page to one of ISU’s copies of Francatelli’s Modern Cook. Ours is an American edition, reprinted from the 26th London edition.

Charles Francatelli published a cookbook The Modern Cook in 1846, which was popular enough to run to twenty-nine editions. In doing so, he joined the ranks of celebrity chefs that had begun in England in the 18th century, and which carries on today. Capitalizing on his service in the Royal Household to cement his celebrity status, he writes a full-page dedication “To The Right Hon. The Earl of Errol,” Lord Steward of the [Royal] Household, under whose “liberal and judicious directions” Francatelli served as Chief Cook and Maitre d’Hotel while in the service of Her Majesty Queen Victoria.

This cookbook is not for the middle class family cook, as Francatelli notes in his Preface to the First Edition—”Many dishes are obviously expensive, and can only be indulged in by the wealthy epicure…,” and later he acknowledges that “throughout this work, the Author has supposed the various dishes and preparations are required to be made for a large number of guests, with the usual resources at hand in a well-appointed kitchen; perfection and economy can only be fully attained under such circumstances.”

Take, for example, these three different recipes for Lamb’s Ears:

(Note: this is only a selection of the text shown.) 938. Lambs' Ears, a la Financiere. Procure a dozen lambs' ears, scald these, then immerse them in cold water; when cold, wipe them dry, and singe them over the flame of a charcoal fire; they must then be gently braized in some blanc (no. 235) for about three-quarters of an hour, and when done drain upon a npakin; the thin part of the ears should be carefully scraped with the back part of the blade of a knife to remove the skin, leaving the white cartilaginous part entire; this last must then be slit in narrow bands, without cutting through the ends, so that when the ears are turned down, these bands by curling over should appear like a row of loops; place the ears as they are trimmed in a deep sautepan or stewpan containing some of their own liquor, sover them with a buttered paper and the lid, and set them aside till dinner time. While the ears are braizing, prepare some veal force-meat, and fill a plain low cylinder border mould (previously buttered) with the force-meat; poach this in the usual way, and when about to send to table, turn it out upon its dish, place the lambs' ears all round the top of it and in each of these put a round ball of black truffle; fill the centre with a rich Financiere ragout (No. 188), pour some of the sauce round the base and serve. Note. -- This entree may also be served with a ragout a la Tortue (no. 189).
Recipes for Lambs’ Ears a la Financiere, Lambs’ Ears a la Dauphine; Lambs’ Ears a la Venitienne.

The end of the book includes bills of fare for dinners for every month of the year, to serve from 6 to 36 persons. There are even bills for a ball supper and a public dinner for 300! Several pages contain the bills of fare for actual dinners served for the queen on particular dates:

Her Majesty's Dinner. 25th January. (Under the control of C. Francatelli.) Potages: A la Tete de Veau en Tortue. Le Quenelles de Volaille au Consomme. Poissons: Le Saumon, a la sauce homard. Les Soles frites, sauce Hollandaise. Releves: Le Filet de Boeuf, pique braise aux pommes de terre. Le Chapon a la Godard. Entrees: Le Bord de pommes de terre, garni de Palais de Boeuf. La Chartreuse de Perdrix aux Choux. Les Cotelettes d'Agneau panees. La Blanquette de Volaille a l'eclarlate. Les Laperaux, sautes aux fines herbes. Les Petits Pates aux hitres. Rots: Les Poulets. Les Faisans. Releves: Le pudding a l'Orange. Les Omelettes Souffles. Entremets. Les pommes de terre a la Strasbourgeoise. Les Epinards au jus. La Gelee de Marasquin. Le Petites Talmouses. Les Feuillantines de Pommes. La Creme aux Amandes Pralinees. Buffet. Roast Beef and Mutton. Boiled Round of Beef.
The Bill of Fare for a dinner served to Queen Victoria on January 25th during Francatelli’s time as Chief Cook in the Royal Household.

Francatelli published three other cookbooks: A Plain Cookery Book for the Working Classes in 1852, The Cook’s Guide and Housekeeper’s and Butler’s Assistant in 1861, and The Royal English and Foreign Confectioner in 1862. He also married late in life (age 65) to Elizabeth Cooke, daughter of William Cooke, a hotel keeper—but don’t let historical fact disrupt your anticipation of wedding bells with Head Dresser Mrs. Skerrett!


About this entry

Original post: Rare Book Highlights: Mr. Francatelli’s cookbook

Publication date: March 2, 2018


  • Baker, Anne Pimlott. “Francatelli, Charles Elmé (1805-1876).” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Edited by H.C.G. Matthew and Brian Harrison, Oxford University Press, 2004, 729.
  • Francatelli, Charles Elmé. A Plain Cookery Book for the Working Classes. 1852.
  • Francatelli, Charles Elmé. The Cook’s Guide and Housekeeper’s and Butler’s Assistant. 1861.
  • Francatelli, Charles Elmé. The Royal English and Foreign Confectioner. 1862.
  • Francatelli, Charles Elmé. Francatelli’s modern cook : a practical guide to the culinary art in all its branches : comprising, in addition to English cookery, the most approved and recherché systems of French, Italian, and German cookery… Reprinted from the 26th London ed., Philadelphia, D. McKay, 1895.
  • Sherman, Sandra. Invention of the Modern Cookbook. Greenwood, 2010.


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