Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Etiquette of British Royal Dining

Don't think about asking the Queen to “Please pass the salt.” She has her own salt dip, or salt cellar, and it is not part of the 2,000 plus silver pieces used for a State Dinner. The Queen’s is a salt dip that was made by Nicholas Clausen in 1721

If by chance there is ever an opportunity for you to go to dinner with HRH at the palace, here are a few things you may find interesting... The silver service (aka “The Grand Service”) is so large, and so complete with every type of utensil imaginable, it takes eight (yes... eight) palace employees at least three weeks to get ready for setting on the tables. Though the Grand Service is kept by the Yeoman of the Silver Pantry (that is the actual title) in a controlled atmosphere, each piece still needs to be washed, shined and polished to perfection prior to a State Dinner.

Don't think about asking the Queen to “Please pass the salt.” She has her own salt dip, or salt cellar, and it is not part of the 2,000 plus silver pieces used for  a State Dinner. The Queen's is a salt dip that was made by Nicholas Clausen in 1721.

Page from the excellent book, “For the Royal Table: Dining at the Palace”

All of this comes from a wonderful book entitled “For the Royal Table: Dining at the Palace” and was created by “The Royal Collection” in Great Britain. It includes historic menus, royal traditions, the silver, the crystal, the china... everything the royal family has used for the past 500 years. From the Royal Collection website, in 2008 announcing the publication of the book there is this... “The style of dining has changed considerably over the centuries, as can been seen from the elaborate menus and recipes from past royal banquets. At a lavish dinner given by Charles II for the Garter Knights at Windsor Castle in 1671, guests were served 145 dishes during the first course, and the catering included 16 barrels of oysters, 2,150 poultry, 1,500 crayfish, 6,000 asparagus stalks and 22 gallons of strawberries” and much more.

The book shows the finger bowls set out with the accompanying knife, fork and spoon, for the dessert or fruit course.

Menu for the Wedding Breakfast of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1923

The table gets the white glove treatment.

 And the white bootie treatment too, for walking the length of the table, checking on perfection. 

Here is more from “The Royal Collection” website: “Contemporary photographs show how Royal Household staff, including chefs, footmen, pages, florists and housemaids, guarantee the highest standards of presentation at a State Banquet. The laying of the table begins two days before the dinner, and each place-setting measures exactly 45cm (18in) across. During the meal, a system of ‘traffic lights’ keeps the team of footmen and pages synchronised; a blue light communicates ‘stand by’ and an amber light signals ‘serve the food’. Each guest has six glasses (one each for red wine, white wine, water and port, and two for champagne – one for the toast and one for the pudding course). A diagram of the arrangement of the glasses guides those who are unfamiliar with the sequence of service.

From the Royal Photograph Collection is a charming series of portraits of Queen Victoria’s footmen and pages, many of whom had started in royal service under her uncle, William IV. Serving food in a royal palace presented particular challenges. Staff were instructed that ‘trays must be kept level so that there is no spilling of gravy or sauces’. At Windsor Castle every dish had to be carried up narrow stairs from the Great Kitchen to the State Apartments. The chefs always made twenty extra dishes for each course in case of a disaster. Following the devastating fire of 1992, the restoration of the Castle included a complete refitting of the kitchen quarters, adding lifts to deliver the food. Royal Household staff still prepare food in the Great Kitchen, the oldest working kitchen in England, where traditional copper pots from reign of George IV stand alongside high-tech catering equipment.” The book is a great read for anyone following the Royal Family or who is interested in history. 

This post was previously posted on the Etiquette Sleuth Blogspot in 2011 

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J. Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia 

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