Kaiser (Emperor) of Germany
Menu dated 3rd April 1917
Luncheon at the Homburg vor der Höhe Palace, Hesse, hosted by His Imperial and Royal Majesty Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany and Prussia in honour of a visit by His Imperial and Royal Apostolic Majesty Kaiser Charles of Austria-Hungary.
This imperial luncheon between two Emperors took place at a critical moment in world history. The newly crowned Emperor Charles of Austria-Hungary and his wife Empress Zita had arrived at Homburg as guests of the German Emperor; and were on a mission to propose that a peace deal be signed in the hope of ending the war.
For a day, at least, war time food rationing was put on hold as the imperial couples sipped on Champagne and dined on chestnut soup; Rhine River salmon dressed in Bearnaise sauce; and carved into whole roast pheasants that had been arranged in life-like formations and served in full plumage on elaborate and high silver serving dishes.
The meeting was not a success. The Germans would hear nothing of the proposed peace terms suggested by the Austrian Emepror - which involved the ‘delicate suggestion’ of handing the Alsace-Lorraine region to the French. Just three days after this lunch, the two Emperors were dealt a further blow when the United States entered the war on the side of the allies.
This menu-card is magnificently embossed with the dual arms of the German Emperor and Empress: the royal arms of Prussia on the left and the royal arms of Schleswig-Holstein on the right.
Anne Topham, who was the English governess to the Kaiser’s children, remembers what it was like to dine at the Homburg palace when she arrived there a decade earlier:
“An elaborate toilette is customary at the midday dinner—something in silk or satin, with a long train—and it must be completed by the inevitable fan and white glace gloves, of which one is worn on the hand, the other carried.
We all assemble before dinner in a large drawing- room, where the ladies and gentlemen of the suite and any visitors who are invited stand about talking till the appearance of the Emperor and Empress. Often the Princess comes in before them with Prince Joachim. The folding-doors are thrown wide open for the entrance of Their Majesties, who always appear at different doors, the Emperor usually being last, and are announced by a footman. Everybody at once stops talking, wheels about and bows simultaneously…
… my place at the oval dinner-table is at one end between Prince Joachim's governor and his tutor. The Emperor and Empress are seated at the sides, opposite to each other, while the guests, inter- mingled with court ladies and gentlemen, radiate right and left. Footmen wearing the court livery, which includes rather ill-fitting gaiters, wait behind every chair and the Emperor's "Jäger " in green uniform attends exclusively to his master's wants.
From the private Royal Menu Collection of © Jake Smith
Rheinlachs mit Bearner Tunke
Rhine River Salmon dressed in a Bearnaise sauce made
from egg yolks, butter, vinegar, shallots, chervil,
tarragon and thyme
Fasanan, Fruchte, Salat
Roast pheasants, fruit, salad
Pfirsiche nach Cardinal
Poached peaches with cassis (blackcurrant liqueur)
Kaiser Charles I of Austria-Hungary
The Times, 4 April 1917