All rights reserved. Jake Smith © 2019

“Fond as he once was of ceremony, nowadays he has made for himself a quiet, bourgeois life, like that of some old bachelor who takes delight in the mere fact of living. Many of his pleasures have been cut off, but those of the table, which were always a weakness with him, afford him compensation. His day's menu is surprising. He goes to bed early and rises early — between 4 and 5 a.m. Immediately an attendant, who is waiting for his master's summons, brings him a first breakfast, of respectable dimensions. The Emperor then rises and goes to his study to work.



At eight o'clock he has a second breakfast, which consists regularly of soup, joint, vegetables, entremets (the great triumph of Viennese cookery), and dessert. His private secretary now appears, and the morning's mail is opened. At noon there is a third meal, similar to the second. Then follows either a short walk in the park at the Hofburg or at Schonbrunn, according as the Court is at one place or the other, or a drive ; for his favourite exercise of riding is now forbidden, or almost entirely so. Between four and five in the afternoon is the fourth meal. One guest, and one only, is present at that — either an aide-de-camp or some high Court dignitary.

This dinner consists of at least six courses — thick soup, beef (which always comes next to the soup), fish, a roast (fowl or game), entremets, and dessert. The Emperor has one abundant helping of each dish, and generally a second also. At eight in the evening there is the fifth meal, of tea, bread and butter, and cold meat, and at 9 or 9.30 this well-fed monarch goes to bed to seek in sleep recuperation of the strength which he has not wasted.



If he eats a great deal, however, he drinks little, although the cellars of the Hofburg are among the finest in Europe. There may be met the best vintages of Lower Austria and of Hungary (so rich in vineyards), of ordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Moselle, and the Rhine.

There is even to be found genuine Tokay, rarest of all wines, the vineyards of the Hegyala from which it comes having been totally ruined by phylloxera. So near such treasures of the grape, the Emperor is content to wash down his meals with Pilsener beer, only allowing himself at the end of his dinner a glass of excellent Bordeaux. His meals are served on very beautiful silver dishes. The famous golden table-service (of which the central epergne alone is worth £6,400) is hardly ever seen, because big dinner-parties are now very few at the Hofburg, and State banquets are no longer given.



In the huge dining-hall, where the footmen are more numerous than the guests, and where, since the Empress's death, no more flowers decorate the table, the Emperor is fond of describing to his only companion the gorgeous days of the grand State dinner-parties; and it is not without emotion that the old man peoples the solitude with the imaginary crowds of old. He still seems to hear the three raps on the floor from the stick of the Grand Chamberlain, the Imperial master of ceremonies, to announce the entrance of Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress."

EMPEROR FRANZ JOSEPH

In 1905 Henri de Weindel authored “The Real Franz-Joseph” based on the insights of a palace staffer who refused to be identified. The recollections show the life of an ageing Emperor saddened by the murder of his wife, Empress Elisabeth, and the suicide of his son and heir to the Habsburg throne, Crown Prince Rudolph. Of Emperor Franz-Joseph’s dining habits he revealed: