Fresh oysters from Whitstable on the north
coast of Kent, England
Potage á la Renaissance
Turbot á la Hollandaise sce Venitienne
Turbot filets cooked in lemon and butter and served with a Venitienne Sauce: a white sauce flavored with tarragon, tarragon vinegear and mushrooms
Filet de boeuf aux legumes
Filet of beef with vegetables
Poulets á l’anglaise
Roast boned chickens filled with a stuffing made from
bread and chicken livers
Cimier de chevreuil rôtis
Roast haunch of roebuck
Choux fleurs á la Polonaise
Cauliflower florets dressed in chopped hard-boiled egg and parsley before being crumbed and fried in butter
Bombe á la Louis Philippe
Ice-cream bombes flavoured with maraschino and apple named after King Louis Philippe I of France
This 1890 dinner was a carefully choreographed event between the German Emperor and his Imperial Chancellor, Prince Otto von Bismarck. It was common knowledge that the two had been warring with each other; so, when the Prince invited the Kaiser to his residence for this dinner, also attended by leading members of the Parliament, there was always going to be great foreign and domestic media interest.
The dinner went for five hours and newspapers, both German and English, revelled in every little detail designed to give the misleading impression that the two powerbrokers of modern Germany were enjoying a renewal of their friendship.
“During dinner”, reported The Times, “His Majesty conversed in the most affable manner and repeatedly took wine with the Imperial Chancellor. After dinner, at the Emperor's special wish, Prince Bismarck lit his pipe, while his Majesty smoked a cigar, and coffee was served”.
The imperial nuance of 'inviting' Bismarck to smoke his pipe was re-iterated in the same newspaper the following day as more intelligence ‘leaked’ from this dinner:
“For the rest the Chancellor's banquet yesterday was characterized by the greatest cordiality on the part of the Emperor and his host. The latter, as usual after dinner, lit his long pipe by request of his Majesty, and held forth on his reminiscences and schemes of tax reform… both the Sovereign and the Prince kept up an incessant flow of conversation, and the deputies who gathered round them were for the most part listeners rather than talkers”.
Curiosity over the goings-on at this dinner reached the new world with the New York Times similarly recounting to its readers that the Emperor “gave his arm to Princess Bismarck on going in to dinner” and also assured its readers that the Emperor had “conversed with the Chancellor in the most affable mood”.
While enjoying haunches of roast roebuck and platters heaped with freshly shucked imported oysters from Whitstable, it was reported that the Emperor “expressed his firm resolve to promote with his utmost zeal legislation for the protection of the working classes”.
But for all the supposed charm of this dinner party, the following month the Emperor would force the resignation his Imperial Chancellor, bringing to an end Bismarck’s 19-year hold on the office that had started under Wilhelm I.
By the time of this dinner the Kaiser was known to be well agitated at Bismarck’s refusal to allow amendments to proposed anti-Socialist laws that would allow Socialist rabblerousers to be evicted from their homes. The Imperial Chancellor’s refusal to allow amendments meant the entire anti-Socialist laws were defeated in the parliament.
With such background to this dinner, there is some irony that the music programme for the night opened with Beethoven’s ‘Egmont Overture’, dedicated to the beheaded Count Egmond, that would - in later years – become a type of unofficial anthem for Socialist revolutions in other parts of Europe.
From the private Royal Menu Collection of © Jake Smith
Dinner and music programme at the Imperial Chancellery, Berlin, hosted by His Serene Highness Prince Otto von Bismarck in honour of His Imperial and Royal Majesty, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany and Prussia
Dinner Guests: Prince Otto von Bismarck with the young German Emperor, Kaiser Wilhelm II
Newspaper clippings from February 1890: The Times (above) and the New York Times (below). (Click on the clipping to magnify).
Dinner Venue: The Imperial Chancellery (Reichskanzlei) in Berlin
The Imperial Chancellor's (Reichskanzler's) arms of Otto von Bismarck as they appear atop the menu and music programme in February 1890: having been made a Prince in 1871, the princely crown sits atop the collar of the Order of the Golden Fleece for which Bismarck became a Knight in 1875.