Queen Victoria married her sweetheart, the German Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, in a lavish ceremony at the Chapel Royal in St. James’ Palace, London, on February 10, 1840. Understandably, the wedding was an enormous affair, and one of the most anticipated events of its day. Victoria was an immensely popular monarch among the British people, and with interest and respect for the royal family and her empire at an all-time high in the 19th century, all of England rallied behind the young queen. Thousands of well-wishers lined the streets of London, and cards, gifts, and tributes were sent to the Queen and her new consort from all corners of the United Kingdom. And, as a true sign of just how popular and respected Queen Victoria was, her wedding proved hugely influential too: She bucked the trend at the time for wearing pastel-shaded wedding gowns, and instead wore a simple, bright white wedding dress. White wedding dresses have remained the tradition for brides’ first marriages ever since.
Among all of the celebrations and gifts sent to Queen Victoria on her wedding day, however, perhaps one of the most remarkable was that which a group of dairy farmers took it upon themselves to produce for her in the far southwest corner of England.
When it became known that the Queen was set to marry, an alliance of farmers from two villages, East and West Pennard, in the county of Somerset, decided to combine forces and produce for her the world’s largest block of cheddar cheese. In June 1839, as many as 750 dairy cows were milked, by a team of 50 local milkmaids, and their milk used to make an enormous 1,250lb cheddar, set into a 9ft-wide octagonal mahogany mold. As the cheese hardened and matured, to ensure that it was truly fit for a queen to consume, it was stamped and embossed with the royal coat of arms.
By Queen Victoria’s wedding day the following year, the cheese had matured enough to be transported to London and was presented to her royal highness on February 10, 1840, in suitably ostentatious fashion. Not only was she to be given the world’s biggest cheddar cheese, but a duo of local musicians had written a song about the farmers’ efforts, which was performed for the Queen as the cheese was unveiled at the palace.
The Queen herself, it seems, much appreciated the Pennard farmers’ efforts, but on tasting a sliver of the cheese reportedly announced that she preferred a cheddar with a more mature flavor, and declined to eat any more. That, however, left her at something of a loss over what best to do with a 9ft octagon of cheddar cheese that she didn’t particularly want to eat.
Eventually, it was decided that the record-breaking cheese should be sent on a tour of Queen Victoria’s kingdom, and so the enormous cheddar was packed up once more and taken off around the UK to be displayed at various locations. Anyone who wished to come and take a look at the world’s largest block of cheese was required to purchase a ticket, with the money raised by the ticket sales later donated to various good causes in the Queen’s name. The cheese, it seems, proved immensely popular with the British public who (perhaps for good reason) had never seen anything quite like it before.
Once the tour was over, arrangements began to be made to return once more the cheese to its rightful owner, but Queen Victoria, understandably, wasn’t too keen to have it back. Instead, it was sent back to Somerset, where its producers argued over what best to do with the now considerably old and rather dry and damaged block of cheese.
As a result, despite once being fit for royalty, the world’s largest cheddar met an ignominious end: It was simply broken up and fed to the farmers’ pigs.