Royal pangs: What will Duchess Kate crave while pregnant?

Jan. 11, 2013 at 11:06 AM ET

TODAY/Sigi DeVos /
Croissant and pate? Marmite and ice cream? This is what many British women crave during pregnancy. Will Kate follow suit?

The baby of the century is on its way! And while the news of Duchess Kate’s pregnancy was divulged early due to her acute morning sickness, now that that storm has passed, speculation has turned to what the duchess will be craving as her nine months drag on.

So far, she has reportedly shown an affinity for Mini Cheddars, a brand of cheddar crackers she was spotted buying in December, and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, reportedly recommended she eat lavender biscuits to help soothe her stomach.

Pickles and ice cream are the stereotypical American woman’s go-tos, but what are other mums-to-be in the UK sending their husbands out to fetch in the middle of the night? We took to the street of London to find out. Yes, they want pickles, but it’s their onions and eggs that are pickled. And ice cream is another favorite, but often drizzled with marmite — the savory yeast extract that you either love or hate with a passion.

Every Thursday at St. Peter’s Church in London’s Notting Hill, women gather at Bumps, Babies and Beyond, a National Health Service-sponsored support group. When we visited, they dished on their cravings, which varied wildly: croissants slathered in pate, cherry brandy lollies, oysters, and lots and lots of meat. Virginia (who did not want her last name printed) said she had been a vegetarian for years, but when she was expecting, she could smell liver being cooked in her apartment building and her usual disgust turned to desire.

Chocolate, sweets, peanut butter and citrus fruits topped the list of many of the women.

“I’m not sure if I craved sweets because I really wanted them, or because I finally had the excuse to eat them,” recalled Nina, a mother of a 9-month-old.

It seemed that much as it is for their American counterparts, comfort food is the answer. But comfort food in Britain isn’t your typical hamburgers or mac and cheese: Here, spicy curries, chili and creamy lasagna are on the menu for expectant mothers.

In 2008, Gurgle.com, the U.K.’s first mother-and-baby social networking site, polled 2,231 expectant moms and found that almost 75 percent had cravings during their pregnancies, mostly during their second trimesters. Curiously, these cravings are up from just 30 percent 50 years ago. Fiona Ford of the University of Sheffield's Centre for Pregnancy Nutrition attributed these more common cravings to the greater availability of foodstuffs that make it easier for women to act on their desires. Women today are also thought to be more comfortable in voicing their cravings than in the past, and their men are more willing to do their bidding.

Royal cravings

But previous royal moms-to-be were not shy in making their cravings known either, it seems. For example, Jane Seymour, Henry VIII’s third wife, craved quails, which the king had shipped in from France, according to Alison James, author of the upcoming “Royal Baby Book.” “I think that’s kind of like the Tudor equivalent of Will nipping out to Kentucky Fried Chicken to get Kate a bargain bucket,” James said. Queen Jane also wanted cucumbers, which her stepdaughter Mary brought from her own garden in Richmond.

Sarah, Duchess of York, reportedly couldn’t give up her nightly glass of champagne when she was pregnant in 1998. Doctors told her she could indulge, but to limit her intake to just three or four glasses a week. James notes that she gained 30 pounds, with a particular penchant for cheeseburgers and mayonnaise and mackerel sandwiches.

Princess Diana, like Duchess Kate, was also terribly ill during her pregnancy, James said. “She didn’t have a specific condition, but she was very, very sick, and apparently she craved bacon sandwiches and used to leave little notes for her chef saying ‘Please make me one of your special bacon sandwiches for when I get back because I should be ravenous and it’s the only thing I believe will make me feel less nauseous.’”

But Kate will likely be hunting for something to satisfy her grumbling belly on her own: Word has it that William and Kate have forgone the typical large household staff for a more intimate environment.

“Typically you might think that a princess can just ring a bell when she has a craving in the middle of the night and something will be served,” said Camilla Tomminey, royal editor of the Sunday Express and an NBC contributor. “The more bizarre the better – servants don’t mind about that kind of thing. That said, the Duchess of Cambridge is very keen not to have too big an entourage, and they don’t like the public thinking that they have lots of chefs and servants at their disposal.”

While James believes Kate’s athletic and health-conscious nature will prevent her from sending Will to fetch ice cream at 2 a.m., if other British moms are any indication, the prince will be on the hunt for some interesting eats.

Sally Hurst is an American chef and food blogger living in London. You can find out more about her on her blog.

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