Buckingham Palace has been working on the upcoming wedding breakfast buffet for Prince William and Catherine for several months. The invited guests will be dining in the State Ballroom, which is the largest room in the Palace. Queen Victoria was the first monarch to reside at Buckingham Palace. This painting, by artist Louis Haghe, shows the room as it was in 1853. The Queen decorated quite lavishly with a palette of red and gold.
During the reign of King Edward VII (Queen Victoria’s son) the room was redecorated in a Belle Époque theme which featured a cream and gold color scheme. The room has remained much the same since that time.
The State Ballroom can be used for a number of different functions. Here the room is set up for a state banquet for 170 people. The setting requires more than 2,000 pieces of polished gilt cutlery, 1,104 glasses, 23 flower arrangements and 100 candles in candelabras.
For a banquet setup, the utmost precision is required. A yardstick is used by the staff to make sure that the placement of each chair, knife, glass and plate is in its correct alignment.
A number of staff will inspect each place setting to insure that the table is in perfect order. H.M. the Queen always provides a final inspection to see that everything has been done to Royal standards.
At one end of the ballroom are two thrones, specifically intended for Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip. It is interesting to note that they are very rarely used.
The festooning on the front of the head table dates back to George IV’s coronation banquet. While the Queen occasionally sets up a head table near the aforementioned thrones, it is not her preference.
H.M. the Queen actually enjoys being seated in the center of a table so that she is able to converse with several of the guests in attendance.
For large banquets and state dinners there is a team of 20 chefs who prepare the food behind the scenes. Within the ball room are a total of 19 serving stations to aid the footmen in serving the elaborate meals, which can include up to 10 separate courses.
The amazing tables always feature beautiful floral arrangements and platters of fresh fruit. Candlelight is provided by several candelabras. The largest are over 4 feet tall. They were designed by sculptor John Flaxman and feature the Greek mythology gods Mercury and Bacchus.
The candelabras are part of a 4,000 piece Grand Service. The service is made of silver gilt~ solid silver covered with a thin layer of gold. It includes 288 dinner plates, 140 dishes, and a staggering inventory of knives, forks, spoons, marrow scoops, ice spades and any other piece of cutlery one could think of.
The man responsible for the creation of such an elaborate table setting is none other than King George IV. He was a monarch famous for his lavish tastes and even more excessive spending habits. The King took the first delivery of the Grand service, created by the royal goldsmiths, Rundell, Bridge and Rundell, in 1811, while he was still Prince of Wales. The original cost was £60,000 (more than £3million in today’s money).
At each setting the napkins are folded in a Dutch Bonnet style.
The gold plates are now used just as a charger or place holder. The Queen has her own official china which bears the mark E II R (Elizabeth Regina the Second) Regina is the Latin word for Queen. The plates below are from Queen Victoria’s reign. (See the V R?)
There are six glasses used at each place setting. They include a glass for red wine, white wine, port, water, a champagne glass for the toast, as well as a champagne glass for the pudding (dessert). Each glass is inspected and as you can see, bears the monarch’s cipher.
A booklet accompanies each setting. It describes the menu, which can include up to 10 courses, and is written in French.
So what will be served at the wedding breakfast? That, like many other elements of the wedding, is a closely guarded secret. At the reception of Prince William’s parents the menu included strawberries and cream, brill in lobster sauce, and supreme de voilaille Princess de Galles ~ which is chicken breast stuffed with lamb mousse.
Of course there was also cake. But let’s save that for next week as I am now currently starving. (smile)
May your own home be your castle,