British Royal Dining... the Tidbits and Odd Facts

So maybe you'd like to dine like the royal family?  Or possibly attend a dinner at one of their many palaces?  Maybe you dine royally while day dreaming.
  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 a the 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 for the dessert or fruit course.
Menu for the Wedding Breakfast of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1923
The table gets white glove treatment.
And the white "booty" treatment too!

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.


  1. I am tickled with this newest post! Where do you find all of this information ? I cannot wait to read more! Witty and wise, your blog postings make my day.

  2. I Love it love it love it love it

  3. What a feast for those knights. Unfathomable!

  4. Now I have to order this book! I can't wait to dive into it. Thank you Etiquette Sleuth!

  5. So fascinating to read all of this!

  6. I am impressed with all of your info my dear friend.

  7. Question, I was watching Pride & Prejudice and the wife was told to sit opposite her husband. Is this common dining etiquette?

    1. It is still common at some very formal dinners, as guests are seated at the table, based on the encouragement of the most congenial and entertaining conversation. Historically, in many countries, women and men did not always dine together. As dining etiquette and dinner party etiquette evolved, the underlying assumption was that husbands and wives were most likely a bit bored with one another, or did not have anything new to say to one another, and would be more than happy to speak with the other invited guests. Not being seated with one's spouse can make for a much more interesting dinner experience and gives couples something new to talk about on the drive home.


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