Sandwiches at an Impeachment
The seven-year trial of Warren Hastings for high crimes and misdemeanours while governor-general of Bengal began in 1788. 'There have been spectacles more dazzling to the eye,' Macaulay wrote in 1841,
more gorgeous with jewellery and cloth of gold, more attractive to grown-up children, than that which was then exhibited at Westminster; but, perhaps, there never was a spectacle so well calculated to strike a highly cultivated, a reflecting, and imaginative mind... Every step in the proceedings carried the mind either backward, through many troubled centuries, to the days when the foundations of our constitution were laid; or far away, over boundless seas and deserts, to dusky nations living under strange stars, worshipping strange gods, and writing strange characters from right to left. The High Court of Parliament was to sit, according to forms handed down from the days of the Plantagenets, on an Englishman accused of exercising tyranny over the lord of the holy city of Benares, and over the ladies of the princely house of Oude.
Westminster Hall was fitted out to accommodate two thousand spectators; a fire engine was stationed inside in case of accident. 'All the Lords in England are ordered to attend,' the Morning Post announced in January 1788, 'nor will any excuse be taken for absenting themselves, but sickness; and not that, unless two physicians appear personally and vouch it to be a fact.' Still, these people had to eat. On 12 February, Sarah Sophia Banks, whose great collection of ephemera is in the British Museum, received a ticket of admission to the Great Chamberlain’s Box for the duration of the trial. A week later she picked up the sandwich menu.