William Wybrown was born in 1743. He had been apprenticed to the royal household as a kitchen boy when King George was still the Prince of Wales. He gradually made his way through the ranks to the top job of Master Cook.
Under his charge were staff including yeomen, turnbroaches, porters, and scourers. William was also in charge of the children of the kitchen which included his own son, George. George also started off an as apprentice but never got beyond position of groom of the kitchen. William was married and had at least one daughter but girls didn’t work in the kitchens.
As Master Cook William was unfortunately satirized in the ‘Lousiad, a Heroi-Comic Poem’ which took its name from a legend that a louse had once appeared on the King's dinner plate. The poem was published in 1786 by author John Wolcot, writing under the pseudonym Peter Pindar.
William died on August 1 1810 at St James’s Palace aged 67. He had been in service in the Royal Household for 53 years
Extract from The Lousiad
In the poem when the King discovers the louse on his plate there is uproar at the table and the King demands that all his staff shave their heads, the Master Cook refuses…
But lo! The Great Cook-Major comes! His eyes
Fierce as the redd’ning flame that roasts and fries;
His cheeks like Bladders, with passion glow
Or like a fat Dutch Trumpeter’s when blowing,
A neat white his huge corps embrac’d
Tied by two comely strings about his waist
An Apron! That he’d purchased with his riches,
To guard from hostile grease his velvet breeches -
An Apron! That in Monmouth street, high hung
Oft to the winds with sweet deportment swung
‘Ye sons of Dripping, on your Major look!’
(in sounds of deep ton’d thunder cry’d the Cook)
‘By this white Apron, that no more can hope
‘To join the piece in Mr. Inkle’s shop
‘That oft hath held the best of Palace meat,
‘And from this forehead wip’d the briny sweat;
‘I swear, this Head distains to lose its locks,
‘And those that do not, tell them they are blocks
’Whose head, my Cooks, such vile disgrace endure
‘Will it be yours, or yours, or yours, or yours?
‘Ten thousand crawlers in that Head be batch’d
‘For ever itching, but be never scratch’d