This 1901 menu from King Albert of Saxony is from the pre-Christmas celebrations at the royal palace in his capital city, Dresden. This would be King Albert’s last Christmas season before his death just six months later.
Given the King was an avid hunter, particularly of deer, its little surprise the menu offered guests a saddle of venison to follow a rich concoction of lamb sweetbreads, cockscombs and truffles known as Ragoût à la Toulouse.
The menu is embossed with the King’s personal cipher comprising of the letters A and R representing the Latin for King Albert (Albert Rex); and is also embossed with a branch of a fir tree, traditionally used at Christmas time, decorated with specs of silver-leaf on its branches.
The former Crown Princess Louisa of Saxony recounted how Christmas time in the royal court was not always favourable to the royal waistline:
“At Christmas, long, heavy currant loaves, very rich and indigestible, are baked, and families visit one another to eat the loaves, which are to be found in every home. I remember on one occasion when [Prince] John-George and [Princess] Mathilde paid me a Christmas visit, they devoured about fourteen slices of currant loaf apiece, and then had quite a dispute as to who had eaten the most!”
While attending a dinner with the King and Queen of Saxony was undoubtedly a much sought after invitation, the ceremony and etiquette of the palace did not meet with everyone’s approval.
The US Ambassador to the Imperial Court of Germany, James Gerard, also served as Ambassador to the Royal Court of Saxony. It appears the rituals of the Saxon court did not sit well with the Ambassador’s commitment to the egalitarian aspirations of a proudly democratic and republican United States, for whom he represented. The Ambassador recounted how:
“In Dresden, the capital of Saxony, a peculiar custom is followed. The King and Queen sit at a table at one end of the room playing cards and the members of the court and distinguished strangers file into the room, pass by the card table in single file and drop deep courtesies and make bows to the seated royalties, who, as a rule, do not even take the trouble to glance at those engaged in this servile tribute to small royalty. I suppose that the excuse for this is that it is an old custom. But so is serfdom!”
From the private Royal Menu Collection of © Jake Smith
Menu dated 17th December 1901
Dinner at the Royal Palace (Residenzschloss), Dresden, hosted by Their Majesties King Albert and Queen Carola of Saxony.
Ragout à la Toulouse
A ragoût of lamb’s sweetbreads, cockscombs,
mushrooms and truffles mixed in an
allemande sauce made from cream,
chicken consommé and mushrooms
Roast saddle of venison
Fruit compote, Salad
Ice-Creams and Sorbets