The Duchess of Bedford's Afternoon Tea

Tea consumption increased dramatically during the early nineteenth century. It is around this time that Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, is said to have complained of “having that sinking feeling” during the late afternoon to her butler. At the time it was usual for people to take only two main meals a day, breakfast and dinner at around 8 o’clock in the evening. The solution for the Duchess was a pot of tea and a light snack, taken privately in her boudoir during the afternoon.

Later, friends were invited to join her in her rooms at Woburn Abbey. This summer practice proved so popular that the Duchess continued it when she returned to London, sending cards to her friends asking them to join her for tea and a walk in the fields. Other social hostesses quickly picked up on the idea and it became respectable enough to move it into the drawing room. Before long, all of the fashionable society was sipping tea and nibbling sandwiches in the middle of the afternoon.

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