1965: The Secrets of the Royal Family’s Health

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1965: The Secrets of the Royal Family’s Complexions

In 1965, Mrs Alma McKee, who had spent many years working as a cook for the British royal family, revealed what sort of foods were preferred at the royal dining table.

She particularly revealed the secret of the much-admired complexions of The Queen Mother, Queen Elizabeth II and her sister, Princess Margaret.

This, she said, was because of a simple, homemade drink that the family all imbibe regularly. (Recipe below)

It’s certainly true that the royal family do enjoy excellent health and longevity. They are slim and energetic.(They must be energetic to follow their gruelling schedule of public duties).

They are mostly sporty people too and we all know how important diet is to good health.

The family, said Mrs McKee in 1965, enjoy plain food. She explained that people were often surprised by this as they imagined that the table would groan with haute cuisine dishes and delicacies.

Not so.

She explained that one of her duties was to regularly cook kippers and that stuffed cabbage was often on the menu. They have open minds, she explained and always liked trying new foods but enjoyed their staple, healthy diet. Fish was on the menu every day.

But it wasn’t a spartan regime. Mrs McKee explained that a firm favourite was her special chocolate cake and its secret recipe included marmalade, ground almonds and a special coffee frosting. It’s also well-known that the family enjoy a tipple.

The secret of the royal complexion

The cook says that the secret is a homemade barley water which, she says is very cleansing for the body. It was always served with every meal and the family drank so much of it she decided to try it for herself. She claimed that it really works wonders for the skin.

Here’s the barley water recipe.


½ cup pearl barley
2½ quarts boiling water
2 lemons
6 oranges
Brown sugar to taste


  • Put the barley into a large saucepan, add the boiling water and simmer over a low heat with lid on for one hour
  • Squeeze the fruit and retain the juice
  • Strain the water from the barley into a bowl, adding the rinds of one lemon and three oranges Add the sugar to taste
  • Allow to stand until cold
  • Strain off the rinds and add the orange and lemon juice
  • Keep in the refrigerator




Jackie Jackson, also known online as BritFlorida, is a highly experienced designer and writer. British born and now living in the USA, she specialises in lifestyle issues, design and quirky stories. You can see a wide range of articles here, or visit her website Tastes Magazine. See The Writer’s Door for more information.

Author: Jackie Jackson

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1 Comment

  1. The Queen has always been very pretty and you’re right her complexion is amazing. i read somewhere that it has something to do with eating fresh raspberries. I like the sound of this barley drink – so I’ll give it a go!! I’ll feed back in a few months lol!

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