23rd July 1886
(11th July in the Julian Calendar)
Luncheon at Pavlovsk Palace, Saint Petersburg, hosted by Their Imperial Highnesses Grand Duke Konstantin Nikolayevich and Grand Duchess Alexandra Iosifovna of Russia for the Baptism of their grandson, His Highness Prince John Konstantinovich of Russia
An imperial family spat was well underway as the Romanovs gathered at Pavlovlsk Palace as guests of Grand Duke Konstantin Nikolayevich for this banquet.
No amount of culinary largess, even if it did include sterlets baked in white wine with truffles, was going to appease the seething towards the Grand Duke’s nephew and guest, Tsar Alexander III.
The occasion was the baptism of the Grand Duke’s grandson Prince John; and the Tsar had arrived as one of the godparents. He was joined by the Tsarina and other godparents including the “Two Olgas” - Queen Olga of the Hellenes and Queen Olga of Württemberg. Also attending was the Tsar's sister, the Duchess of Edinburgh.
Although just a few weeks old, the baptised Prince John was already a “former Grand Duke”. Since 1797 all great grandsons of a Tsar were Grand Dukes and styled “His Imperial Highness”. However just one week prior to this christening, Tsar Alexander III issued a new decree that grandsons were to be given the inferior title of Prince and styled simply as “His Highness”. Prince John therefore was the first member of the Romanov family to be affected by the new decree.
Just days before this Baptism, the little Prince’s father Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich wrote in his diary:
“Today there appeared in the newspapers the Decree on the Establishment of the Imperial Family with subsequent changes, according to which my son bears the title of Prince and Highness. According to the old position, he would be the Grand Duke and Imperial Highness. The whole family is very displeased with these innovations, not excluding the Sovereign’s brothers."
Of course there is no record of whether the Grand Duke raised these personal thoughts with the Tsar as they sat side-by-side at this luncheon, just days later, sipping their entrée of turtle soup ahead of a courses of Sterlet in white wine and cutlets of foie-gras in a tomato, truffle and Madeira sauce.
Over 200 guests attended the baptism ceremony at the palace church which started at 12:30 pm and was overseen by the Imperial Family’s personal confessor (Protopresbyter) Archpriest John Yanyshev (Janishev).
The host of this lunch was the baby prince’s
grandfather and grandmother, Grand Duke Konstantin Nikolayevich and Grand Duchess Alexandra Iosifovna of Russia, whose imperial crests appear on the menu: the Grand Duke’s at the top and the Grand Duchess’s on the middle-left. Prince John’s parents were Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich and Grand Duchess Elizabeth Mavrikievna.
From the private Royal Menu Collection of © Jake Smith
Potage de tortue
Potage purée de champignons
Purée of mushroom soup
Small pies to accompany the soup stuffed with a variety of savoury mousses
Sterlet au vin Rhin
Sterlet (small freshwater sturgeon) braised in
white wine from the Rhine region.
Côtelettes de foies cras aux purée de truffes
Cutlets made from seasoned pounded goose livers and dressed with a sauce of puréed truffles flavoured with Madeira and thickened with a tomato paste
Poulardes et gibier
Roast poulardes (spayed hens not less than 120
days old) and game meats