The King’s Grand Service – The British Royal Banquet Table Since George IV

Although there is one post here on royal banquets, many have reached this site searching for information on the silver flatware used during a royal banquet.  Not all research has been completed but enough has been unearthed that a few salient facts are available.

As you can see by the following excerpt, more than just flatware comprises the Royal Grand Service:

The magnificent dining silver-gilt used at a State Banquet is from the Grand Service, originally made for George IV when Prince of Wales. It was first used to celebrate the 73rd birthday of his father, George III, in 1811.  As king, George IV continued to add to the service throughout his life, and by his death it included more than 4,000 pieces. Today the Grand Service forms the core of the royal silver and encompasses the best examples of 19th-century design, drawing on Egyptian, Greek, Roman and medieval sources.  The dining plate is dominated by the monumental Mercury and Bacchus and Apples of the Hesperides candelabra, which stand over a metre tall.  Made by the master goldsmith Paul Storr and designed by the sculptor  John  Flaxman,  they  are  always  placed  on  the  table  opposite Her Majesty The Queen and the visiting Head of State. [royalcollection.org]

It is meant to overwhelm.  Looking at the flatware, it is given over to what is called fiddle, thread and shell patterns.  It is best illustrated if we look at the silver flatware “Kings Pattern” that Tiffany produced around the turn of the century and that was wildly popular.  It incorporates many of the decorative details of the above flatware and follows the development of these patterns through the Edwardian Era.  Replicas were found in every hotel in America.

As time permits, more research will be done on this.  Meanwhile, it is hoped that many of your questions have been answered here.  If not, leave your question in a comment.

In My Grandmother’s Pantry

Long after your grandmother has died, when you think back about her  table settings, her choices will reveal  her “ways” in a manner you had not imagined.  For this reason, everything about a grandmother’s table is of historic, sociological and family interest.  A meal is central to our socialization and it tells us volumes.

Large family dinners and large business-related dinners meant that my paternal grandmother had lots of “gear” to go.  Because her husband ran a department store with an office in London, she could source beautiful linens, stem ware and china at cost.  She favored Minton and L’Imoges and today what she had in her pantry are now styled “Antique Minton” and  “Antique l’Imoges.” Some resembled the following.  My favorites were the raised patterns with gold:

Minton colbalt blue
Detail of raised gold

Her collection of china was very much like the above.  It was like looking at candy.

Her tablecloths and table runners were exquisite.  But most amazing were champagne silk place mats with lace edges.  There were square pieces for the stem ware.   This group includes a tea-tray cloth.

Because grandmother gave large card parties with tables set up all over the downstairs, I found that she had a minimum of 20 luncheon napkins in each style to accommodate the tables when set for the meal that preceded the playing.  Long ago, a lovely lady who had helped at the house when Grandma was alive, took me through the downstairs and showed me where she had set up the tables and described a typical gathering.

Among my grandmother’s linens I found a crocheted lace piece that was a peculiar shape. Because it was heavy, I assumed it must have been worn by my grandmother’s Belgian mother as a kind of cap.  So I tried it on.  Oh, how lovely.

I was quickly disabused of my talent for identification of ancient pieces.  In looking over pictures of grandmother’s house, I found a picture of a chair wearing it.  Can you say “antimacassar”?

©SamHenry

At Great Grandmother’s Table in Ormond Beach, FL ca 1920

My Great Grandfather had a home on the Halifax River in Ormond Beach, Florida where he lived winters.  He was a Scottish merchant and other Scottish merchants had homes near him.  They called themselves “the Scottish Syndicate.”  The home was called Rowallan after a castle in his native Ayrshire.

Above is my Great Grandmother’s table at Rowallan (ca 1915). The centerpiece appears to be flowers and fruits.  These round tables are making a comeback now but with one difference: they are constructed so that you can add leaves around the outside to expand them if you wish.  Otherwise, they might be ungainly in today’s interiors.

There was a small orange grove on the property.  When the house was sold, the appraiser, in trying to devalue the place for tax purposes said: “it must have cost one dollar per orange to produce fruit in that grove.”  In other words, it wasn’t set up for economies of scale!

You could eat fruit al fresco in the grove as my cousins did here:

Or you could eat it at table using a citrus spoon with enameled orange blossoms.  This is a spoon actually used at Roallan.  It was the gift of a cousin in the family pictured above.  She was the youngest and is not pictured.

We know for certain that wild turkey was on the menu at the house.  Here is a picture of my young father (ca 1925) with one that had just been shot.  We must remember that Florida in those days was not developed to the extent it is today and so wild turkeys were not far away.

We are fortuate to have these pictures and some artifacts from those days almost a century ago.   There were seven children in the family and so a spoon is a treasure!

©SamHenry.  Registraton pending.

Grandpa’s Table: Breakfast At Our Adirondack “Camp” from SamHenry

My maternal great grandfather started going to this little gem of a Lake in the foothills of the Adirondacks before I was born.  His son, my grandfater, owned his first cottage in a fairly well-populated bay but found a heavenly parcel with three lots and government property ringing most of it.

The house dated from the turn of the last century and was buried in trees with tall grass.  Not much mowing and all natural.

My favorite view of the property - from the old flat-bottomed fishing boat.

Inside was plain, not winterized, with tongue and groove unpainted walls.  The furniture was about the same date as the house; the kitchen dishes were depression-era glass and cheap reproduction willow ware and deep blue glasses.  In short, these camps were filled with anything you didn’t want at your main house anymore.

Grandpa with an iron frying pan full of sunny side up fried eggs cooked in bacon grease.

I began my trips there my first year on the planet and they continued until the camp (cottage for non-Adirondack vacation homes) was sold following my grandfather’s death.  In later years, my grandfather, a doctor, was the chief cook.  He and my uncle cooked wonderful breakfasts.  There was no dishwasher, a refrigerator only instituted in the place after 1970 and just the most basic iron cookware.  Water piped in from a well and turned off and on using faucets replaced the pump on the counter next to the sink around the same time.

All dining table and cooking equipment was kept in tall metal cabinets that shut tight to protect them from the mice and bugs.  Shelves were lined with oil cloth and, unlike today, seemed effortlessly spaced for successful storage.

I loved going fishing with Grandpa – often for the entire day.  He made up some Grandma Brown’s Baked Bean sandwiches (canned beans made in Mexico, NY) and brought some pop and other unrefrigerated snacks for lunch.  This was before ice packs and coolers.  He was not good about minding my mother’s rules about candy.  He would give me a few pieces and say “now I want you to take one of these once every ten minutes and see if you don’t feel better.”  When she would complain, he would turn to her and say: “I don’t get cavities from eating candy.  I keep my teeth in a glass nights and they are fine.”  He was a tease and a character.

Grandma and Grandpa on their way to the camp next door that was owned by his roommate at medical school. That family still owns their camp. This is one of my all time favorite pictures albeit from an early Kodak Instamatic.

William And Harry’s Grandma’s Table(s)

Harry and William ride away from a child educationcenter in Lesotho, Africa 2010

No matter that you travel economy class in the air or by horse on the ground, Princes William and Harry of Great Britain cannot easily claim a casual lifestyle for their Grandma, Queen Elizabeth.

Recently, the Emir of  Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani and his wife, Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser Al Missned came for a three-day visit in the UK.  Qatar was a British protectorate until 1971 and Britain seeks closer ties with the kingdom in an attempt to woo new investors in the UK.  Queen Elizabeth pulled out all of the entertainment stops at Windsor Castle.  In the large hall that has been restored since a fire there, she served what seemed hundreds.

The Queen delivers a speech before the banquet

In 2008, the Queen opened up more of Buckingham palace to tourists and a special exhibit was devised focusing on banquets:

Buckingham Palace has been open to the public since 1993.

The ballroom is where the great state banquets are held – there have been 77 held there during the Queen’s reign and 97 in total (of the other 20, 18 were held at Windsor Castle in Berkshire and 2 at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh) – and [since 2009, the public have been] able to see the room as it is when it is laid for for such an occasion.

The popular monarch loves helping to set up the huge table’s layout – and she also helped to set up this display for the public.

This is the scene which has greeted foreign monarchs, presidents and prime ministers – the Buckingham Palace ballroom prepared for a state banquet.

Laid out are seats for 170, more than 2,000 pieces of polished silver-gilt cutlery, 1,104 glasses, 23 flower arrangements and 100 candles in candelabras.

The Palace’s ballroom has been decorated and the enormous dining table laid out with hundreds of pieces of tableware. [Daily Mail]

Behind the scenes preparations for a state banquet featuring staff walking on the table to light candles and make last minute adjustments.

An overview of the collection of flatware and etc. that are used at a banquet at Buckingham Palace where most have been held until recently when Prince Philip suggested Windsor.  This was shot during an exhibition at the Palace in 2008 that was open to the public:

St. Georges Hall, Windsor. Destroyed During a Fire in recent time, it is amazing that furnishings and paintings were not in place since the fire was the result of faulty wiring during remodeling. St. George is the patron saint of England.

Finally, enjoy reading about the most decadent royal banquet ever.  [Daily Mail]

Napkin Folding Spoken Here – From SamHenry

The beautiful Wye River Valley.

In the summer of 1966, my brother and I were tramping about Britain and we treated ourselves to a stay at the Chase Hotel, Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire just because we drove past and liked how it looked!  Serendipity is the best travel planning guide.

We had no idea that its main restaurant was gourmet and had been awarded Britain’s highest honor, an AA Rosette. This inspired the owners to have napkins folded in the shape of a rose on each service plate at table.

My brother who fancied  himself a chef but was more often mistaken for one of the Beach Boys  at airports, was fascinated.  Soon he was getting up with the sun and wending  his sleepy way to the dining room to be educated in the mysteries of napkin folding.  He also satisfied his chef fantasy by ordering Steak Diane made at the table each of the four nights we were there until he had that down.

♣ Napkin folding

was practiced in the 18th and early 19th centuries in Europe and America by people in service who had entire guide books for the purpose to train them.

I found one – a fragile “paperback” in a used book store a few years back and bought it for my brother.  Now, through the magic of the internet, instructions formerly confined within such covers or to the memory of an aged grandmother or  an old flunky would have limited the instances of the art found on tables today.  Many of the old patterns may be found here.

The rosette – alone or with a cup of soup nestled in its center – is found below:

Rose napkin pattern

The Rose Napkin Fold

Despite looking fairly elaborate, this fold is an easy one, and it can be done with almost any variety of napkin. Display small bowls or glasses on top of these, or use them as novelty cocktail napkins.


Napkin Fold #1
1. Lay the napkin face-down in front of you.
Napkin Fold #2
2. Fold the two right corners of the napkin in so the tips rest at the center.
Napkin Fold #3
3. Fold the remaining two corners of the napkin in so the tips meet with the last two in the center.
Napkin Fold #4
4. Once again, begin folding the outer corners in so they meet at the center.
Napkin Fold #5
5. Once all of the tips are folded you are left with a square about 1/4 the size of the unfolded napkin.
Napkin Fold #6
6. Flip it over.
Napkin Fold #7
7. Fold the corners in so they meet in the center and then place something sturdy in the center, or hold it with your fingers.
Napkin Fold #8
8. While maintaining downward pressure in the center of the napkin, reach underneath each corner and pull out the flaps to create petals.
Napkin Fold #9
9. Remove the center weight and your rose should look as pictured here.
Finished Rose Napkin Fold
10. If you like you can reach underneath the center of each side and pull out a second set of petals to fancy it up some more. Place something in the center and you’re done, have a rosy meal!