anquet in the Festsaalbau (banqueting hall) of the Munich Residenz hosted by His Majesty King Ludwig II of Bavaria for the Feast of the High Order of the Knights of Saint George.
“Amid continued enthusiastic cheers from the masses of people” reported the Allgemeine Zeitung, the 34-year-old King Ludwig II of Bavaria, made his way to the banquet hall of the Munich Residenz, having just invested eight new Knights into the Order of Saint George.
The King took his seat beneath a richly embroidered white and gold canopy. Surrounding him in chairs upholstered in blue silk, were the various Princes and Knights of the Order. And in pride of place, second only to the King, was a golden statuette of Saint George sitting atop its own dais and encrusted with diamonds, rubies, emeralds, opals and pearls.
This festival was the pinnacle of ritual in the Bavarian Royal Court.
The King, carrying a knight’s sword with white scabbard at his side, was dressed in magnificent robes with an ermine pallium around his shoulders and a gold chain draped from his neck with the Order of Saint George proudly dangling over his silk white tunic. As he entered the room, the King wore a black velvet hat, sporting a “radiant diamond tariff ”, that sprouted plumes of ruffled white feathers. The King was “followed by the pages carrying the long undulating train”, according to the newspaper. It was a dazzling spectacle, even by royal standards.
In another six years, the King would be declared insane. But for now, Ludwig II was simply regarded as being as eccentric as he was extravagant.
Putting to shame any modern theme-park, renovations to the Munich Residenz had not long been completed. The royal rooftop now featured an ornamental garden, encased in a glass dome, that came complete with a lake and accompanying gondola; along with a wooden bridge, fishing hut, and a blue silk tent covered in roses with a lion’s skin at its entrance. Set against a painted backdrop of the Himalayas, there was also a parrot swinging on a gold hoop, trained to say ‘good evening’ to the arriving King and his guests, as peacocks strutted past.
The rooftop lake had special, albeit inconvenient, significance to the royal kitchen staff housed directly beneath. “There must have been some weak spots in the masonry”, recounted former royal chef, Theodor Hierneis, of his kitchen-boy days. “We could only protect ourselves slightly by going to bed under umbrellas”.
But it was several storeys beneath this leaking fairy-tale rooftop where this grand banquet was about to unfold. Although Saint George’s Day had fallen two days earlier on 24 April 1880, the King had set aside 26 April for the Feast of the High Order of Knights of Saint George (Fest des Hohen Ritterordens vom Heiligen Georg).
Amongst the eight new Knights admitted to the Order on this day was the 20 year-old Prince Ludwig Ferdinand of Bavaria and his eighteen year-old younger brother, Prince Alfons. They had just returned from the Throne room where they had kneeled on the steps before the King, as Grand Master of the Order (Ordensgroß Meister), as he lowered his bared sword three times - on their head and both shoulders - and royally boomed out the consecration oath in Latin. There had been a High Mass and renditions of Veni Sancte Spiritus; Mozart’s Missa in B-flat; and Rheinberger’s Salve Regina and Offertorium.
Now, it was time to feast. The Knights sat in the 250 metre-long banqueting room and awaited their first course of partridge consommé - flavoured with Sauterne, bacon and hare - which was poured around poached chicken dumplings. Then came the lapwing eggs, served in napkins, and drizzled in butter with fresh watercress.
“I really believe that the food at the Munich Residenz was worthy of Napoleon’s famous chefs, Bernard and Dupois, and of the Brillat-Savarin whose book has made French cooking renowned in all civilised countries”, recalled Hierneis. But he also recalled how “we had always to bear in mind the King’s bad teeth and be sure that all food was very well cooked and soft in consistency”.
On this day, of all days, it was perhaps not a surprise that the dessert was Gâteaux á la St George. This was a red and white dessert, in the colours of the Saint, made from mashed strawberries mixed with whipped egg whites and baked in a marzipan case before being coated in maraschino icing and topped with strawberries and whipped cream. In keeping with the presentations of royal desserts of the era, it can be assumed that the cake was topped with a figurine of Saint George made from marzipan or spun-sugar.
There was roast legs of wild boar; spit roasted saddles of venison; woodcock and truffle pies; and life-like quails coated in chaud-froid sauce served with the head and tail re-attached on a shimmering bed of chopped aspic jelly. Eating a quail at the King’s dinner table was a breeze compared to the fiddly and bony experience of modern dining. The royal chefs had deboned each quail and carefully detached the legs and breasts before reassembling the birds so that each morsel of meat could be lifted away from the carcass, with just one prod from a fork. This was a culinary blessing for those keen not to ruin their pristine Knightly white silk tunics.
Drunk with the main roast dishes was a Marcobrunner 1868, which royal chef Hierneis had once observed:
“In between courses he [the King] drank by preference the finest Rhine wines – Marcobrunner, Geisenheimer, Hochheimer or Rauenthaller Berg".
In place of a sorbet, that often acted as a digestive halfway through banquets of the era, the royal chefs served-up Maiwein (May Wine): a woodruff (Waldmeister) infused white wine with strawberries added.
Gold plate was used for all the Knights with the statuette of Saint George being positioned before the King at his personal place-setting which also included a bowl made from rhinoceros horn set in gold; and an onyx water-jug with gold cups.
By 1880, Ludwig II was gaining a reputation as a recluse. “The King of Bavaria, whose absence from the capital has been commented upon, arrived at Munich on Monday”, The Times delicately reported earlier in the week.
The King would have been pleased then, with reports in German speaking media, that there had been “continued enthusiastic cheers from the masses of people who had flocked” to see his knightly procession on this day.
26th April 1880
Potage à la d'Artagnan
Partridge consommé flavoured with Sauterne, bacon and hare; poured around poached chicken dumplings
Oeufs de vanneaux
Lapwing eggs dripping in melted butter and served in a linen napkin with watercress
Cailles à la Volière
Cold boned quails stuffed with minced game meat and truffles which are then reassembled with tail, neck and head; coated in chaud-froid sauce; and served individually atop a crouton surrounded by chopped aspic jelly
Saumon du Rhin à la Hollandaise
Rhine salmon dressed in Hollandaise sauce made from egg yolks, butter and lemon
Filet de Boeuf à la Printaniére
Filet of beef deglazed in white wine and tomatoes; and served with stuffed tomatoes and chateau potatoes that have been browned together
Dindon à la Godard
Turkey breasts garnished with braised lamb’s sweetbreads, cockscombs and kidneys, truffles and mushroom caps; then dressed in a sauce made from Champagne, ham, onion and mushroom essence
Cuissot de marcassin à l'Anglaise
Roast leg of wild boar with roast vegetables
Suprême de volaille aux haricots verts
Leg and breast of chicken braised in truffle butter served with French beans tossed in the cooked butter
Pâté de bécasses aux truffes
Woodcock and truffle pies
Langouste à la Ravigote
Lobster medallions dressed in a sauce made from capers, onions and herbs
Terrine de foie gras
Terrine of livers from force-fed geese
Woodruff infused white wine with strawberries (served as a digestive)
Selle de mouton en chevreuil
Spit-roasted saddles of mutton and venison
Roasted baby capons (castrated cockerels (young roosters))
Poached asparagus spears
Gelée au vin de Champagne
Gâteaux á la St George
Mashed strawberries mixed with whipped egg whites and baked in a marzipan case; coated with maraschino icing; and topped with strawberries and whipped cream
Glaces: chocolat, fraises, ananas
Ice-creams: chocolate, strawberry, pineapple
Ludwig II: in 1866, as Crown Prince of Bavaria before he was King, Ludwig II ,with velvet hat in hand, wears the robes of a Grand Prior of the High Order of the Knights of Saint George.
Translation from the Allgemeine Zeitung - (above) - April 1880
Munich , April 26 . The feast of the Knightly Order of St. George, celebrated today by the Bavarian court, received a very special honour through the granting of knighthoods to eight (already mentioned) candidates, including the two Royal Princes Ludwig Ferdinand and Alphonse - a rare occurrence in the history of the Order. Extensive preparations had been made to ensure that the celebration was as brilliant as possible. In the Church of the Order (Ordenskirche), the so-called old residence chapel, the royal throne with the imposing canopy of blue velvet richly embroidered with gold, was set up. The surroundings of the throne and the walls of the church were covered with costly tapestries woven of gold thread and were of the finest design, which probably have no equal; the chairs of the Princes Grand Priors and the Knights of Order were upholstered in blue silk. The altar was resplendent in rich paraments and precious vessels.
Feast of the High Order of Knights of St. George
Munich Residenz, 1880
Artist: Johann Caspar (Hans) Herterich