The Prince Regent's Cook
(by L.W. Cowie)
(by L.W. Cowie)
Born in Brunswick, Louis Weltje became cook to the Prince of Wales in the 1780s and landlord of his Marine Pavilion at Brighton
With many thanks to L.W. Cowie who wrote this article in the magazine "History Today" in 1978.
THE ROYAL PAVILION, that unique, fantastic building in Brighton, owes its position, though not its present architectual form, to the Prince Regent's cook.
The best remembered of the Prince's cooks is Marie Antoine Carême (l784-l833), the author of Maitre d'Hôtel Français, Les Déjeuners de l' Empéreur Napoléon, La cuisine Française and other books. Carême, however, was only cook to the Prince for a short time. He came to him late in 1816, after he had made for himself an international reputation at the Congress of Vienna as Talleyrand's cook, but he remained with him for only eight months . Then homesickness drove him back to France, though the Prince was paying him a salary of £1,000 a year.
The man who established the Prince in Brighton, and did much else for him as well, was Louis Weltje, sometimes called the 'Enlightened Cook'. According to the Court Calendar, Welte was the Prince's Controller and Clerk of the Kitchen and Cellars from 1783 to 1789 and may, in fact, have held the post for a longer period.
He was born about 1745 in Brunswick) where for some years he worked in the Duke's kitchen. It is not known when he arrived in England, but he came with his Broher, John Christopher Weltje (1752-1839), who later was for a time cook to the Prince's brother, the Duke of York. Louis Weltje was said to have sold Westphalian gingerbread in the streets of London soon after his arrival. Then he had a pastrycook's shop in St. James's Street, which he later moved to Pall Mall. About this time, he devised a savoury spread, which was produced commercially under the name of 'Weltje's Motley Paste'. This was mentioned by Richard Tickell in 1779 in some lines in his Epistle from the Honourable Charles Fox, Partridge Shooting, to the Honourable John Townshend, Cruising:
'Salads that shame ragouts shall woo thy taste,
Deep sha1t thou delve in Weltie's Motley Paste.
Derby shall lend, if not his plates, his cooks,
And know I've brought the best champagne from Brooks's.'
Weltje spent the rest of his life in England, becoming a nationalized British subject in 1786. Yet he never secured a good command of English and spoke always in a 'barbarous Anglo-Westphalian jargon. This is probably why he is one of the few important cooks who did not write- a Cookery book.
It may also be the reason why he married a compatriot, Amelia Ahrens, at St. George's, Hanover Square, in 1772. Neither he nor his wife, after a-residence of thirty years in England, could speak English better, it was said, than a pair of elephants. Weltje's wife was also as ugly as himself. Her features resembled his in such an extraordinary manner that people insisted that he must have advertised for her. It seemed beyond even the coincidental workings of Providence that they should have found each other in the usual course of life.
Gillray's cartoons certainly dis-play him as an odd-looking man with untidy and porcine features including a gaping mouth and upturned nose; and the only surviving pic-ture of him, a simple engraving by C. Bretherton, Junior, shows a longlegged figure in knee breeches, topped by a head with a fringe of curls and a convex forehead. This portrait is inscribed 'Weltje, the Prince of Wales Cook kept the Coconut in th St. James's Street.'
The Coconut Club was founded in 1779 by the Weltje brothers under the close patronage of the Prince and the Duke of York. They encouraged them to found a club in the same street as Brooks's and as a rival to it because its members had blackballed two of the less reput-able triends of the royal brothers, though later Christopher Weltje recorded that he himself had excluded from membership of the Coconut Club the notorious seventh Earl of Barrymore, commonly known as 'Hellgate'. The Coconut Club became known for its high play and good food. The Weltjes did financially well out of it, and it was probably in this way that they were able later to obtain direct employment from the royal brothers.
As the Prince's cook, Louis Weltje was known for his oddity and independence of character, his self-importance and even arrogance. One day, when the Prince was dining at Carlton House, his London residence, he thought that the soup tasted strange and sum-moned Weltje from the kitchen. Weltje asked a page for a spoon and tasted the soup. 'Boh, boh,' he said, 'tish ver goote,' and immediately walked out of the dining-room, leaving the spoon on the table. The Prince tolerated such eccentricities and valued him as an excellent cook, whose cuisine made invitations to the banquets at Carlton House eagerly sought after by London society.
Weltje soon became more to the Prince than a cook. While he had been conducting the Coconut Club, his keen financial sense and adroitness as a negotiator was noticed by the Prince, who soon after engaging him at Carlton House entrusted him with the mission that was to bring him his greatest claim to fame. In the early 1780s the Prince suffered from swollen lymphatic glands in his neck, a troublesome and unsightly affliction, which distressed him and led him to wear, in order to conceal it, very high starched neckcloths that were soon widely imitated by gentlemen of fashion. His physicians suggested he should take care a course of sea-bathing at brightonas a cure.
For some years now, Brighton or Brighthelmstone, as it was still commonly known had been receiving such visitors, who were rapidly transforming it beyond recognition. Peregrine Phillips, who was a visitor there in 1778, wrote, 'Brighthelm-stone was only a small, obscure village, occupied by fishermen, till silken folly and bloated dis-ease under the auspices of a Dr Russell, deemed it necessary to crowd one shore and fill the inhabitants with contempt for their visitors.
Dr Richard Russell, a physician of Lewes, published in 1750 a Latin treatise, De Tube Glandulari, which was soon afterwards trans-lated into English as a A Dissertation on the Use of Sea Water in the Diseases of the Gland. The seaside was already beginning to replace the spa as a place of fashionable resort, and his ideas, which combined the possibilities of pleasure with medical treatment, aroused growing interest. Dr Russell sent his patients to drink and bathe in sea water at Brighton, which had the great advantage of comparative nearness to London; and in 1754 he built himself a house there so that he could supervise them more easily. People suffering from all sorts of com-plaints and from none went there. The nobility and the wealthy followed their physician's example in building themselves houses there, and the place developed a lively social life.
The Prince first went to Brighton in Sep-tember 1783. He arrived early one evening, amid the ringing of church bells and a royal salute from the battery, and spent a week (to the annoyance of George III) with his uncle, the Duke of Cumberland, at Grove house, which belonged to Lord Egremont's brother, George Wyndham who had rented it to the Duke. Grove House, a large, red-brick, bow-fronted mansion, was in the new fashionable part on the east of Brighton, facing the wide grass lawn of the Steine. This had been developed as the town's new promenade and because the first visitors were attracted by the medical properties of the sea rather than any aesthetic appeal, it was laid out in a north-south direction and not along the shore. The Prince bathed every day in the sea, enjoying the services of a strong and cheerful dipper named Smoaker Miles. He planned to come to Brighton again the next year, but he wished this time to be there early enough for the Brighton and Lewes race meetings, which were held at the end of July.
Accordingly the Sussex W'eekly Advertiser of 19th, July 1784 stated that Mr Gill, the Purveyor of the Prince of Wales's Stables, and Mr Weltje, the Clerk of the Prince of Wales's Kitchen, had come to Brighton ear-lier that month 'to engage a house there for His Royal Highness, who has been advised by his physicians to sea-bathing, as necessary to perfect the re-establishment of his health'. And so this odd-looking cook, dressed in decorous black with an old-fashioned wig and by now pot-bellied, made his first appearance in Brigh-ton. He addressed his enquiries for a house in his oddly-broken English, spoken in a guttural German accent, which the people found as difficult to understand as did the under-cooks when he issued orders in the kitchen. Perhaps it was because of this that Weltje contented him-self with obtaining Grove House again for the Prince, who made several visits there, bathing, walking, stag-hunting and going to the theatre and to balls, until the house was bought by the Duke of Marlborough in 1786. By then, intent on economy amid his pres-sing financial difficulties, the Prince had decided to close Carlton House and settle in Brighton for a time. By then also, Weltje was able to conclude an arrangement that promised both to suit the Prince and to benefit himself.
Next to Grove House was a farmhouse owned by Tomas Kemp, a member of Parliament for Lewes, whose son, an energetic builder, was later to give his name to the Kemp Town part of Brighton. In 1786 Weltje took a lease of this farmhouse with the furiture and garden at a rent of £150 a year with an option to purchase it for £3,000. After the lease was settled, Weltje sublet the house to the Prince; the condition was that Weltje should pay for the enlargement and improvement of the house and charge a rent according to the cost. No picture of this house has survived, but it is marked on a map of Brighton made in 1787 by the book-seller, Richard Thomas, and it appears to have been a two-storied house with twin bow windows on the Steine side and a semi-circular plot of land in front.
Samuel Rogers, the poet, who remembered having dined there as a boy, described it as 'a respectable farmhouse'. George Croly, the Prince's biographer, said, 'It was a singularly pretty, pitturesque cottage in a small piece of ground where a few shrubs and roses shut out the road, and the eye looked undisturbed over the ocean. . . The happiest hours of the Prince's life were spent in this cottage.' This was the house to which the Prince retired in July 1786, having established Mrs Fitzherbert in a small nearby villa.
The Prince, however, intended to put into effect immediately the arrangement by which his new abode was to be reconstructed at Weltje's expense. Within a year it had been changed into the Marine Pavilion, as this fore-runner of the present Royal Pavilion was called. The Prince engaged his favourite architect, Henry Holland, who built him a small classical villa on the Palladian model in the graceful and elegant fashion characteristic of what James either boiled or roasted and of joints weighing about twenty or thirty pounds.'
These dishes were arranged together on the table, and the guests helped themselves, drinking porter and sometimes cider until port and madeira were placed on the table together with several hot puddings, tarts and pies, dry and fresh fruit and various cheeses.
The Prince and Weltje helped to popularize in England both French cooking and the new way of serving a meal a la Russe which had recently been introduced into Paris by the Russian Ambassador. Instead of the gigantic and simultaneous display of food on the table, several courses of elaborately-cooked dishes were served with appropriate wines for each course. This was a more expensive way of entertaining. It required more cutlery of all sorts and (since all the service), including carving, was carried out in the kitchen) more servants; but the Prince never hesitated to spend money on what he wanted, even though both his general expenses and his debts were very high at this time.
A considerable proportion of his expenditure went on furniture and works of art of all kinds, and here also Weltje assisted him. He showed another side of his character when he was employed by the Prince to buy for him at auction sales, both in Britain and abroad. It was chiefly through him that the fine collections of French furniture and Sévres china now at Windsor Cas-tle and of Dutch pictures at Buckingham Palace were bought. In these commissions, he was helped by his brother, Christopher, who had married Anne Sophia Buhl, a descendant, probably a grand-daughter, of Charles André Buhl, the Parisian cabinet-maker in the service of Louis XIV, who introduced the device of inlaid fretted brass and tortoiseshell strips into furniture-making; and the original furnishing of the Brighton Pavilion included some early BuhI furniture.
Weltje's cooking and purchasing of furniture and pictures brought him the admiration of a select circle around the Prince: but for a time he achieved some notoriety by an incursion into the murkier regions of politics. In 1789, when George III's ill-health made it seem likely that the Prince might become Regent, Weltje was thought to be making sinister efforts to bribe the Prince's opponents. He was urged by The Times to restrict his studies to stewpans and his influence to his patron's closet or else go back to keeping a gingerbread stall. He was described as an 'itinerant German music-grinder raised from earning half-pence by the discordance of a street walking concert'. Many a worthy British subject was 'out of bread', but 'a great German toad-eater' had rapidly 'amassed an enormous fortune in the Prince of Wales's service'.
Weltje, however, was not to be subdued. The Morning Post had hired itself to the Treasury to publish items detrimental to the Prince, but early in 1790 Weltje induced its manager to cease to mention the Prince's marriage to Mrs Fitzherbert by the offer of a thousand guineas and £350 a year. Though handling so much money for the Prince, Weltje was no more successful in receiving money from him. He experienced continual difficulty in getting from him the rent for the Pavilion and was glad to sell it to him for £22,000, probably about September 1793, when the question of the price to be paid was submitted for settlement by arbitration. The Pavilion must have belonged to the Prince by 1796, when an annuity of £3,000 a year, later increased to £4,000, was first paid to Mrs Fitzherbert, because it was raised by means of a mortgage on the Pavilion.
By then Weltje, who was not to receive the sum due to him for the Pavilion before he died, had left the Prince's employment. He had two daughters by his marriage. One died of smallpox; the other is said to have been the cause of her father leaving royal service. She married one of the Prince's cooks named Buzzard without her father's consent. Weltje angrily asked the Prince to dismiss the bridegroom, but he promoted him to be a clerk to the kitchen, and Weltje left in a huff. His brother left the Duke of York's service about the same time, and both retired to London.
Christopher took a house in Lillie Road, Fulham, and Louis chose a house called Seagreens in the Upper Mall, Hammersmith. Louis Weltje's house had a beautiful garden in which he successfully cultivated auriculas and geraniums. He spent much of his time also in elaborately entertaining the painters, poets, artists, musicians and others who visited him. They ate dishes such as boar's head, venison pasty or basted woodcock, chose delicious fruits from his hothouse and drank choice wines. When a friend remarked that this must cost him a great deal, he said, 'By Gote, as long as I can shpend my monies for my friends, fon they compt here, dere are plenty of goote tings, and fon I die, dere is enof for my posteriors.' He was, indeed, still making money, his latest ven-ture being lending money on post-obit bonds in which he displayed a remarkable ability to assess the likelihood of death among those involved in his transactions.
He died on October 23rd, 1800, suddenly at tea, from a surfeit, it was thought, of his own richly-cooked dishes. His wife was left well-off, as he had foretold, and in 1807 she received from the Prince, not only the purchase money due on the Pavilion, but also an annuity of £360. When she died, his estate passed to their daughter and her husband, with whom Weltje had clearly become reconciled, and the Buzzards, the famous Oxford Street confectioners, were probably their descendants (and his).
He left behind few reminders of himself. His chief monument, the Marine Pavilion, was transformed into the present exotic oriental Royal Pavilion, which retains, however, the ground plan of Holland's building. His house in Hammersmith was pulled down in 1839. A road, which was cut through its grounds to run from King Street down to the Upper Mall, is still called Weltje Street; but since few understand why it has that name, it hardly relieves the general obscurity into which he has fallen.
Below you will find the ancestors of August Wöltge, who is the father of Louis and Christopher Weltje.
Parenteel van August Wöltge
I August Wöltge, Konditor. In trouwakte Wöltgen genoemd. In geboorteakte van zoon Johann Christoph Wöltge genoemd.
Gehuwd op 24-09-1743 te Braunschweig (DE) met Margaretha Elisabetha Zenckern.
Uit dit huwelijk:
|1.||Johann Heinrich Ludwig Weltje (zie IIa).|
|2.||Johann Christoph Weltje (zie IIb).|
IIa Johann Heinrich Ludwig Weltje, Huismeester George IV Werkte als kok aan het hof van de Hertog van Brunswijk, als verkoper van Westfaals gemberbrood, als eigenaar van een pasteiwinkel in St. Jamesstraat, later verplaats naar Pall Mall, beroemd voor de "Weltje´s Motley Paste", eigenaar van de Coconut club te St. James´s Street 163, waarna hij van 1783 tot 1790 als huismeester van de Prince of Wales George IV te Carlton House werkte. In deze functie verwierf hij het Brighton Royal Pavillion, die hij aan de Prins van Wales verhuurde. Tevens verwierf hij vele meubels en schilderijen voor Buckingham Palace. Was betrokken bij de affaires Mrs. Fitzherbert en "The Regency 12 Cake". Geboren 1745 te Braunschweig (DE), gedoopt op 03-06-1745 te Braunschweig (DE). Braunschweiger Gemeinde St. Ulrici, overleden op 23-10-1800 te Londen (UK). Overleden te Chiswick ten huize van de weduwe Mrs. Mayersback aan een beroerte. Begraven op 31-10-1800 te Londen (UK). St. Pauls Church in de wijk Hammersmith. Begrafenisonderneming Plowman. Familiegraf (o.a. dochter en schoonzuster) in 1950 geruimd t.b.v. aanleg West Road. De stoffelijke resten zijn herbegraven in "Hammersmith Old Cemetery", Margravine Road. In kerkboek Wöltje
Roepnaam in Engeland is Louis.
Woonde tot aan zijn dood te Seagreens in Hammersmith Upper Mall. Was een van de drie eerste leden van de in april 1788 opgerichte "Prince of Wales Lodge" van Freemasons. Later is er een straat (Weltje Road) te Hammersmith Londen naar Louis Weltje genoemd. Zoon van August Wöltge (zie I) en Margaretha Elisabetha Zenckern.
Gehuwd op 06-07-1772 te Londen (UK). Huwelijk in St. Georges Hanover Square. St. George´s, Hanover Square. Echtgenote is Amelia Ahrens, overleden na 1807.
Uit dit huwelijk:
|1.||Elizabeth, geboren 1775 te Londen (UK), overleden op 12-03-1790 te Londen (UK). Overleden aan de pokken, begraven op 19-03-1790 te Londen (UK). St. Pauls Church in Hammersmith Londen.|
|2.||Elisabeth Sophia (zie IIIa).|
IIb Johann Christoph Weltje, Huismeester In 1788 huismeester bij de broer van de Prins van Wales, de Hertog van York. Medeeigenaar van de Coconut club te St. James´s Street 136 of 63 te Londen. Geboren op 16-06-1753 te Braunschweig (DE), gedoopt op 19-06-1753 te Braunschweig (DE). Braunschweiger Gemeinde St. Ulrici
Doopouders: Johann Christoph Rasche, Johann Christian Hundertpfund en Frau Itse Maria Menchin. Overleden op 14-12-1839 te Londen (UK) op 86-jarige leeftijd. Er is een testament beschikbaar dat in de National Archives is opgeslagen. Begraven op 24-12-1839 te Hammersmith (UK). St. Pauls te Hammersmith. Herbegraven in 1950 te Hammersmith Old Cemetary, Margravine Road.
Begrafenis geleid door ds. Francis T. Atwood. In doopboek wordt de naam Wöltge gebruikt.
De roepnaam in Engeland is Christopher.
Woonde te Fulham en na de dood van Louis te Seagreens, Hammersmith, waarna het huis Buhl house genoemd werd. Zoon van August Wöltge (zie I) en Margaretha Elisabetha Zenckern.
Gehuwd met Ann Sophy Buhl, geboren 1764, overleden op 28-09-1825, begraven op 05-10-1825 te Hammersmith (UK). St. Paul´s Churchyard. laatstelijk wonende te Upper Mall, Hammersmith. Dochter van Buhl en NN.
Uit dit huwelijk:
|1.|| Elizabeth, geboren 1781 te Londen (UK), overleden op 10-03-1796 te Londen (UK). Stierf aan de smallpox. Louis Weltje is in dezelfde graftombe begraven als de dochter van zijn|
|2.||Louis Augustus (zie IIIb).|
IIIa Elisabeth Sophia Weltje, geboren 1795 te Londen, dochter van Johann Heinrich Ludwig Weltje (zie IIa) en Amelia Ahrens.
Gehuwd met John Edward Buzzard, Kok onder schoonvader Louis Als kok leerde hij toekomstige vrouw kennen en was daardoor indirect verantwoordelijk voor het nemen van ontslag aan het hof van schoonvader. Nam functie over en is later koekfabrikant te Oxford Street geworden. Buzzard Ltd. Cake manufacturers 197 Oxford Street. Geboren 1798 te Londen. Waarschijnlijk is dit niet de kok zelf die Louis dwars zat maar zijn zoon. Dus er moet nog een generatie tussen.
Uit dit huwelijk:
|1.||Elisabeth Ann Buszard, geboren 1824 te Londen. Wonende te Riverscourt Road, Hammersmith. Is waarschijnlijk de erfgename van het bezit van Louis Weltje alsmede van Christopher Weltje.|
|2.||Mary, geboren 1833 te Londen.|
IIIb Louis Augustus Weltje, geboren 1785 te Londen (UK), overleden op 01-11-1836 te Londen (UK), begraven op 08-11-1836 te Londen (UK). St. Paul´s Churchyard te Hammersmith. Familiegraf in 1950 geruimd. Resten van 5 familieleden herbegraven te Hammersmith Cemetary in Margravine Road. Wonende te Upper Mall te Hammersmith. Op 13 Augustus 1821 te Hammersmith ingeschreven ter stichting van een monument ter nagedachtenis aan Koningin Caroline van Engeland. Dit monument is niet opgericht. Keert in 1806 naar Braunschweig terug om familiebezit te verkopen. Louis ging in 1826 bij zijn vader in de Upper Mall te Hammersmith wonen, zoon van Johann Christoph Weltje (zie IIb) en Ann Sophy Buhl.
Gehuwd 1819 met Matilda Hunter. Bron Mormoonse archief: Matilda Weltje (or Hunter).,.
Uit dit huwelijk:
|1.||Frances Ann, gedoopt op 28-11-1815 te Hammersmith.|
|2.||Emily, geboren op 26-08-1819, gedoopt op 23-09-1819 te Hammersmith.|