What Adam Smith Ate: Apple Charlotte

what adam smith ate coronation queen charlotte

Renee Wilmeth for AdamSmithWorks

Adam Smith was known to King George III and was in London managing corrections to TMS around the time of the King's marriage and coronation in the autumn of 1761. It’s very possible Smith enjoyed a celebratory meal or two - perhaps with Benjamin Franklin?
The recent passing of Queen Elizabeth II and accession of King Charles III are a monumental changing of the guard for the British monarchy. On May 6, 2023, British subjects and others around the world will celebrate the new King’s coronation (or at least watch it on television). During Adam Smith’s lifetime, he also witnessed the death of a death of a monarch, King George II, and a coronation of another. 

George II died at the age of 77 on October 25, 1760 making George III king at the age of 22. He would go on to become the longest reigning British king (59 years) and third longest reigning British monarch behind Queen Victoria and Elizabeth II. He married Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz on September 8, 1761 just two weeks before his coronation. He’d never met her before the ceremony. 

In Smith’s day, there were many reasons to celebrate this changing of the guard. A new young king and with new thoughts and ideas excited England’s politicians and citizens. Americans will know King George III for his time during the Revolutionary War, but he also led England through the Napoleonic Wars. (For more on George, see my Reading Room post, "The Last King of America: A Review") 

In 1760, Smith was teaching at University of Glasgow and celebrating the 1759 publication of Theory of Moral Sentiments. For the next several years, Smith would gain the title of Doctor of Laws and expand his lectures into jurisprudence and economics while managing publication of new editions of TMS. Todd Buchholz in his 1999 book New Ideas from Dead Economists even notes that students left programs in other countries to study with Smith at Glasgow during that time.

Since the new king was married so close to his coronation, much of London celebrated for the entire time. As it happens, Smith was in London sometime between August 27 and October 15, 1761. Smith was known to the King and involved with university appointments and committees and was also at the time managing corrections to a new printing of TMS. It’s very possible he enjoyed a celebratory meal or two and toasted to the king. Benjamin Franklin was also in England in 1761 having spent time with Adam Smith and David Hume in Scotland before heading to London for the coronation of the new king. (Teachers might especially enjoy this lesson plan imagining the three of them together, "An Evening With the Wise Guys."

The coronation banquet was said to have featured “no fewer than sixty haunches of venison, with a large quantity of all sorts of game. The king’s table was covered with 120 dishes at three several times but what chiefly attracted notice was the dessert, abounding with rockwork and emblematical devices.”  (There is a very small account of the event in William Jones’ 1883 book Crowns and Coronations: A History of Regalia.)

While George III is known for ordering the gold state coach, he and his wife were generally frugal, although he did enjoy French food. Queen Charlotte, would become known for her namesake dessert, a fruit, custard and whipped cream-filled molded cake which became popular in France and Russia as well. While there is some debate over which chef originated today’s version of the dessert, most agree it was based on a version preferred by Queen Charlotte. 

British chefs would have had their own versions of the Queen’s favorite fruit-filled dessert and it’s probable that Smith would have encountered it later during his years living in London.  He may also have enjoyed a simpler version with more rustic seasonal fruit and less whipped cream (and fewer sugared berries.) Americans might think of it as a similar to a deep-dish apple pie, perfect for the fall and almost certainly something that Adam Smith would have enjoyed.

Apple Charlotte

·         4 lbs apples, firm and crisp
·         1 lemon
·         4 tbsp butter
·         ½ cup brown sugar
·         2 tsp cinnamon
·         1 tsp nutmeg
·         1 loaf sliced white sandwich bread, crusts removed
·         8 tbsp butter, softened
·         Turbinado sugar for sprinkling
1.       Preheat over to 400F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan with 2 tbsp of the softened butter.
2.       Peel and core the apples. Slice thinly. Place in a bowl and squeeze the juice from the lemon over them.
3.       In a large saucepan, melt the butter, then add the apples.  Add the brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Stir and cook over medium heat until the apples begin to break down and the sauce thickens.
4.       Divide the bread slices into three batches. Using the first batch, press the bread into the bottom of the springform pan to form a bottom crust.  Using the second batch, cut the slices in half, and vertically press the bread around the outside of the pan to form the sides.  Generously butter insides of the bottom and side crusts in the pan.  
5.       Add the apple filling mixture, spreading to fill the entire pan.
6.       Using the third batch of bread slices, press them flat on the counter in a circle the size of the springform pan. Butter each side of the flat top crust, and place it over the apple filling, tucking the edges in around the pan.
7.       Dot the top with any remaining butter and sprinkle with the turbinado sugar.
8.       Bake for 35-40 minutes or under the crust is golden and crisp.  Let cool for 10 minutes, then run a knife around the edge and remove the collar. Serve the apple charlotte in slices with custard, whipped cream, or vanilla ice cream. 

For a more decadent version, use sliced pound cake instead of the sandwich bread.

Still hungry for more?
Renee Wilmeth's "What Adam Smith Ate: A Tribute to Strawberries" on AdamSmithWorks
Renee Wilmeth's "The Last King of America: A Review" in the OLL Reading Room
Edmund Burke on King George III on EconLib
An anecdote about King George the III and dueling is found in Charles Mackay's Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds on EconLib

Lesson Plan: An Evening with the Wise Guys on AdamSmithWorks
In this lesson, students examine the economic ideas of three friends: Adam Smith, Benjamin Franklin, and David Hume.