Queens and Princes: Royal Visits to York Mansion House

By Mansion House Team - 17 April 2020

 Queens and Princes: Royal Visits to York Mansion House


Queen Elizabeth II visits the Mansion House in 2012


Lord Mayors of York have played host to multiple monarchs and members of the royal family in the Mansion House over the past 250 years, providing luscious banquets, welcoming receptions and fascinating tours of the city of York. In this post, we have chosen three of these very special occasions, which span four centuries, to help us explore how fashions have evolved, and how traditions have remained steadfast as the world has changed around them.


The Prince of Wales (later King George IV)

George IV (when Prince of Wales): John Hopner


The Prince of Wales visited York in 1789 with the intention of visiting the Races at the Knavesmire. After the meeting had finished, the Prince was invited to the Mansion House to be guest of honour at a royal banquet. The Lord Mayor, Thomas Hartley, wanted to pull out all the stops for his visitor, and had hired a French chef for the evening - at a cost of over ten pounds - to ensure that the meal met the exacting standards of the future King. Monsieur Odie prepared some of the Prince’s favourite dishes, including turtle soup, and as an extra personal touch, the royal was presented with a turtle of his own, which had arrived at the Mansion House under the protection of armed guards. In yet another bid to ensure that their event was as fashionable and extravagant as possible, the organisers purchased pineapples for the evening, which were perceived as a symbol of welcome and of wealth. Despite, or even because of their great expense, the pineapples were not eaten – they were used as centre pieces instead!


It is clear that the Lord Mayor’s efforts did not go unnoticed by the Prince, as he promised a portrait to the city as a ‘thank you’ gift, in return for the excellent hospitality that was shown to him and his entourage. It took over twenty years to arrive, but the portrait was finally hung in the Mansion House in 1811 and can still be seen in the State Room today.



Prince Albert

In 1850, Lord Mayor George Hicks Seymour entertained Prince Albert in the Guildhall, behind the Mansion House. Once again, the corporation did not want to appear provincial, and therefore hired in an influential French chef to prepare the royal banquet. No expense was spared on the production of a colossal seventy-two dish menu, which included decadent culinary delights such as ‘Peacock ala Ancient Rome’. At the centre of the feasting table was the rather questionable ‘One Hundred Guinea Dish’ (pictured below) which featured, amongst other ingredients, forty five partridges, eighteen turkeys, mangoes and mushrooms.




When the festivities were over, Prince Albert retired to his rooms in the Mansion House; it is believed that he slept in the room that is currently the Drawing Room, which would have once acted as the State Bedroom. It is also believed that the Prince made use of one of our most treasured items – the solid silver chamber pot!


Queen Elizabeth II

Queen Elizabeth II with the civic regalia, now displayed in the Dining Room


Over one hundred years later in 1957, Queen Elizabeth II made her first visit to York as monarch, and has returned on multiple occasions ever since. Most recently, the Queen dined at the Mansion House in 2012, when York marked 800 years since it was granted a city charter. Fortunately, there were no ‘One Hundred Guinea’ dishes served on this occasion, but the Queen did take part in traditional ceremonies, just as her ancestors had done in previous centuries, such as touching the blade of our Civic Sword when entering the City at Micklegate Bar.

On this occasion in 2012, the Queen presented the City of York with a new Cap of Maintenance to replace the previous one which was made in 1915. The Cap of Maintenance is still in use today, and can still be seen in civic processions, when it is worn by the sword bearer as a symbol of the authority of the monarch in the City.


Georgia Owen, Mansion House Steward