Grand Duke of Hesse
Menu dated 1st January 1906
New Year's Day lunch at the Philippsruhe Palace, Hanau, hosted by Their Royal Highnesses Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig and Grand Duchess Eleonore of Hesse.
It appears some Christmas Day “leftovers”, in the form of plum pudding, may have made their way on to this New Year’s Day royal banquet for the Grand Duke of Hesse in 1906.
Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig (Ernest Louis) was the sovereign ruler of Hesse located in central Germany; and the only brother of the Empress of Russia, Alexandra Fyodorvna.
As a grandson of Queen Victoria, who attended his (“Ernie’s”) first wedding in 1894, the Grand Duke was also very closely connected to the British royal family which may explain the odd mix of the English and French languages on this palace menu card.
This long meandering luncheon, the length of which is denoted by the title Déjeuner dinatoire, offered guests a special treat of Truites au Bleu which can only be made from trout caught within minutes of it being cooked and served. The fish are quickly knocked on the head before being gutted - but not scaled - and plunged into boiling stock that has high vinegar acidity.
The servings of trout followed an asparagus soup accompanied by lobster pastries, before guests were offered dishes of dressed lamb cutlets; medallions of sautéed foie gras with poached apple; and prized roasted fattened chickens from Bresse which had been boned and stuffed with truffles, mushrooms and yet more foie gras.
At the time of this new year’s day banquet, the Grand Duke was in the first year of marriage to his second wife, Grand Duchess Eleonore. Despite the palatial surroundings and spread of gourmet treats on offer, court etiquette in Hesse was noticeably strict to even those familiar with stiff ceremony.
The Lady-in-Waiting to the Empress of Russia, Anna Vyrubova, remembered a visit to Hesse just two months earlier and recounted how:
“Etiquette at Hesse was of the severest order and I observed with some astonishment that the Princess Victoria curtsied deeply to her sister-in-law, Princess Eleanor, who though much younger than herself, was the wife of the reigning Grand Duke”.
The venue for this luncheon took place at the Grand Duke’s ancestral home: the baroque Philippsruhe Palace built in the early 1700s. The building was not to everyone’s taste however. In May 1884, Prince George of Cambridge visited the Hessian royal family and recounted how:
“For luncheon we drove over to Philippsruhe, which is certainly a very handsomely furnished Palace, but I think it is, to my taste, far too gaudy, and too much like a show house.”
From the private Royal Menu Collection of © Jake Smith
Truites au bleu, sauce hollandaise
Extremely fresh trout, that has been killed no less than
ten minutes prior to cooking, which is dressed in vinegar prior
to being plunged into a boiling court-bouillon to create a blue
glow on the skin; and served with a hollandaise sauce
Dressed lamb côtelettes
Escalaopes de foie gras à la minute
Medallions of sautéed foie-gras served with poached apple
Poulardes de Bresse
Roast fattened chickens from Bresse that have been deboned and stuffed with truffles, foie gras and mushrooms
Muscovite of oranges
Iced dessert made form oranges and cream
The recently married Grand Duchess Eleonore of Hesse co-hosted this new year's day banquet with her husband Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig.
Tragically, in 1937, Grand Duchess Eleonore died in a plane crash along with her son and daughter-in-law, Princess Cecilie. Princess Cecilie was the sister of Prince Phillip, the Duke of Edinburgh; husband to Queen Elizabeth II.