Although you wouldn’t want it as your Easter treat, the 121-year-old chocolate box is still complete and a remarkable find.
London (01 April 2021) – A 121-year-old tin of chocolate commissioned by Britain’s Queen Victoria has been found with its original contents in the attic of an English manor.
As reported by Reuters, the chocolate belonged to an English aristocrat who fought in the Second Boer War, Sir Henry Edward Paston-Bedingfield, and was found in his helmet case at his family’s ancestral home, 500-year-old Oxburgh Hall in Norfolk, eastern England.
“Although …you wouldn’t want it as your Easter treat, it is still complete and a remarkable find,” said Anna Forrest, Cultural Heritage Curator at the National Trust, a heritage charity that manages Oxburgh Hall.
In 1899 Queen Victoria decided to send a gift of tin boxes of chocolate to her troops serving in South Africa. It was intended that every soldier and officer should receive a box with the inscription ‘South Africa 1900’ and in the Queen’s handwriting ‘I wish you a happy New Year’.
As a gift from the Queen, many soldiers preserved their tins with the chocolate intact, even posting them back home for safe-keeping. In exceptional cases, the recipients did not even dare untie the ribbon around the packaging. The tins were so highly valued by their contemporaries that soldiers who were prepared to sell them could ask prices as high as £20. An Army Order issued from Bloemfontein in April 1900 decreed that the tins were to be forwarded to officers and men who had been invalided home before the Queen’s gift arrived and to next of kin of those who had died during the Boer War.
The Boer War (11 October 1899 – 31 May 1902) was fought between the British Empire and two independent Boer states, the South African Republic (the Republic of Transvaal as it was named at the time) and the Orange Free State, over the Empire’s influence in South Africa. The trigger of the war was the discovery of diamonds and gold in the Boer states.
The National Trust said it believed Henry had kept the helmet and the chocolate together as mementoes of his participation in the war. The items were discovered among the belongings of his daughter Frances Greathead following her death aged 100 in 2020.