Would you like a slice of 138-year-old cake?

Published 7:53 am Monday, April 20, 2009

There are times when I’ve noticed my love of history can border slightly on the side of absurd.

For example, I’m pretty sure the other night I put my mom to sleep talking to her about the Crusades.

While I agree about the importance of teaching and having the knowledge of history, when it comes down to the everyday functions of life it’s the kind of knowledge that takes more trivial back seat.

What is particularly interesting about history buffs is that we tend to be awed by artifacts, which in their former lives served in an array of mundane purposes: Abraham Lincoln’s hat; tools used by Native Americans to cultivate the land.

And then there’s the 138-year-old slice of cake.

I was browsing the news Friday morning when I happened upon a story about this particular “artifact,” if that’s what you want to call a putrid piece of fossilized food.

The one-inch thick slice of cake is thought to be the only surviving item from the wedding of English Princess Louise to the Marquis of Lorne and could have been all yours for just $215. The seller advised the buyer not to eat the cake.

The slice of history was sold Thursday at an antique fair in Birmingham, England.

Princess Louise and the Marquis of Lorne were marred in 1871 despite the controversy surrounding their union.

Princess Louise was the daughter of Queen Victoria of England, the latter was known for skills at arranging marriages between her nine children and her more than 40 grandchildren to royals all across Europe. That coined her the nickname “the grandmother of Europe.”

Princess Louise was quite an independent spirit for her day as she was a supporter of the feminist movement and refused to marry a prince as was expected of her.

Instead she chose John Campbell, the Marquis de Lorne, who was considered a commoner.

This infuriated the Queen’s brother, the Prince of Wales, who was appalled that his niece was marrying a British subject.

Ignoring her brother’s outcry, Queen Victoria consented to the marriage, feeling it would bring “new blood” into the royal family and therefore strengthen the bloodline morally and physically.

So the wedding went off without a hitch and from the five-foot, 225-pound wedding cake, a 138-year-old slice of cake still survives.

The piece reportedly has survived so long from being wrapped in the original parchment paper and kept in a gentlemen’s “cabinet of curiosity” that held odd treasures men felt compelled to show off.

Whether this really old piece of cake will make it to the nearest museum is yet to be seen, but in the meantime this should be filed under the absurd.

Amanda VanDerBroek is a Staff Writer for the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald. For comments and column suggestions email: amanda.vanderbroek@r-cnews.com or call (252) 332-7209.