UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1800: ELIZABETH I, 1533-1603. Queen of England From the painting by Zucchero at Hatfield House. (Photo by Universal History Archive/Getty Images)
Food - Drink
Queen Elizabeth I May Have Inspired The First Gingerbread Men
Gingerbread people are important during the Christmas season, and baking and decorating these festive treats is a tradition for many. Modern gingerbread can be traced to the Middle Ages, but while gingerbread was once shaped into flowers or religious symbols, Queen Elizabeth I may have started the trend of the gingerbread man.
Queen Elizabeth I of England had a dedicated royal gingerbread maker and was already known for serving fancy desserts. Carole Levin, director of medieval studies at University of Nebraska-Lincoln, says that the queen "did do a banquet where she had gingerbread men made to represent foreign dignitaries and people in her court."
The queen's charming people-shaped gingerbread treats spread to the New World of America via colonization. The cookies were even used in Virginia as a campaign giveaway by aspiring politicians, but today, we bake these treats as simple gingerbread people who aren't meant to represent any real-life monarchs or governors.