I confess. I chose this headline to attract attention, but it actually happened. On a sunny April afternoon in 1895, the Prince of Wales’ governess allowed Lizzie Essen and other servants to hold the infant who grew up to become King Edward VIII, the man who abdicated his throne to marry American divorcee, Mrs. Wallis Simpson.
I first learned of Lizzie Essen as a young girl when visiting my neighbor, Mrs. Ethel Schoenberger Phelps. I loved it when she invited me to go upstairs to the attic where she kept precious things like a turn-of-the-century mechanical Ferris wheel, a wicker baby buggy, and a large cardboard box of old postcards. I loved old postcards, so imagine my delight upon discovering Lizzie Essen’s postcards.
Born near Scotland’s Balmoral castle in 1873, Lizzie helped her sister, a servant there, clean the castle before the royal family’s visit. She entered full-time service during the final years of Queen Victoria’s reign and eventually rose to the position of pastry cook at Buckingham Palace.
As a servant in the royal household, Lizzie’s travels took her from Balmoral Castle to Buckingham Palace to Sandringham House to Windsor Castle. Making friends with other servants, she remained in touch with them through postcards.
By the time she immigrated to the United States in 1912, she had amassed a sizable collection, some scenic, others comic. Many of her humorous cards deal with courtship or drinking.
While in service, Lizzie made pastries for American visitors and became penfriends with their servants. As a result of this exposure to the United States, she decided to immigrate in 1912, settling in Marion, Ohio. Her first marriage to a Scotsman named John Brooks ended in divorce, and in 1927 she married a widower, Amos Schoenberger, and moved to Wyandot County, Ohio. Instead of cooking roast beefs and Yorkshire puddings for England’s “first family,” she cooked over a farm stove. And she continued to send postcards!