Welcome to Royal Wedding Wednesdays Banquets and Tablescapes. Buckingham Palace has been working on the upcoming wedding breakfast buffet for Prince Harry and Miss Markle for a few months now. It will be held at St. George’s Hall in Windsor Castle. The grand space was built in 1684. It featured Verrio’s Baroque paintings on the walls and ceiling. Charles II was shown enthroned in Garter robes. Trompe l’oeil corinthian columns divided the walls into bays. The original hall was captured by artist Charles Wild in 1816.
St. George’s Hall in Windsor Castle
The hall underwent major architectural work by Sir Jeffry Wyatville in 1827. It featured Gothic-style decoration. Suits of armor were placed on display and various military weapons were hung on the walls. The original plaster ceiling was recreated to resemble wooden beams and decorated with the coat of arms of the Knights of the Order of the Garter as shown in this 1838 painting by James Baker Pyne.
The hall was severely damaged by the great fire in 1992. The ceiling and east wall were completely destroyed. However, it was beautifully restored. An oak hammer-beam roof was created and the ceiling features the shields of the Knights of the Garter. Although I still prefer the hall in the 1684 version.
The 180 ft (55m) long hall has held numerous state dinners and events. It will probably be transformed for the wedding reception to look something like this:
The Queen generally always inspects the table herself prior to an event. She may also be joined by the bride and groom if there is time.
Her Majesty the Queen is almost always seated at the center of the table. Prince Philip sits directly across from her. The most notable members of the Royal family and heads of state are positioned close by.
Royal Wedding Wednesdays Banquets and Tablescapes
Many other wedding breakfasts have been held over the years. Queen Victoria was the first monarch to reside at Buckingham Palace. This painting shows the Picture Gallery that was used for State dinners and other events. This painting shows the room as it was in 1853. The Queen decorated quite lavishly with crystal and gold.
A new ballroom was planned to create an even larger space for such functions. It was designed by Sir James Pennethorne and built by Thomas Cubitt. Unveiled in 1856, this painting by Louis Haghe, shows a regal color palette was 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
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. Much of it comes from George IV’s Grand Service.
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.
Several staff members will inspect each place setting to ensure that the table is in perfect order. Just as it is done at Winsor Castle H.M. the Queen always provides a final inspection to see that everything has been done to Royal standards.
Two Thrones Alone
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 ballroom 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 Table Settings
The amazing tables always feature beautiful floral arrangements and platters of fresh fruit. Candlelight is provided by several candelabras. The largest is 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 which is 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.
King George IV
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 used serve as a charger or placeholder. 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, made by W. Davenport and Co. in Longport, are from a banquet to celebrate Queen Victoria’s accession to the throne.
There are six glasses used at each place setting. They include a glass used 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 bears the monarch’s cipher.
A booklet accompanies each place setting. It describes the menu as well as other details such as the music. Dinner can include up to 10 courses.
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 Harry’s parents, the menu included strawberries and cream, brill in lobster sauce, and supreme de volaille Princess de Galles, chicken breast stuffed with lamb mousse.
May your own home be your castle,