TSAR ALEXANDER III
24 May 1883
Dinner in Saint George’s Hall, the Kremlin, Moscow, for
Their Imperial Majesties Tsar Alexander III and Tsarina Maria Feodorovna
of Russia, for the foreign Princes, the Chiefs of Special Missions and Members of
the Senate attending the Sacred Coronation of Their Imperial Majesties
At 6:50 pm precisely, Tsar Alexander III and Tsarina Maria Feodorovna arrived at the Kremlin’s Saint George’s Hall for this stunning banquet. The imperial guests were the visiting foreign Princes and Chiefs of the Special Missions who had arrived in Moscow for the coronation, to take place in just three days.
As tureens of cream-of-grouse soup arrived from the kitchens, the Tsar seated himself between Queen Olga of Greece and the Archduchess Marie Thérèse of Austria. Opposite the Emperor sat the Tsarina who was flanked on either side by her brother, Prince Waldemar of Denmark, and the Duke of Edinburgh.
With clockwork precision, it took just 70 minutes to serve this 14-course banquet to the 584 guests; 72 of whom were seated at the Imperial table to avoid any diplomatic miffs about order of precedence. The Russian Imperial Opera sang in the background until 8pm before the Emperor and Empress passed into the adjacent Saint Andrew’s Hall to mingle and chat with their imperial guests for half an hour.
The menu-cards were especially commissioned for this dinner by Russian artist Viktor Vasnetsov who was famous for his folklorist and historical depictions. Above the menu’s illustration is the ornate monogram of the Tsar and Tsarina: AIII and M.
The crown depicted at the top of the menu is the “Monomakh's Cap” used by Ivan the Terrible (Ivan IV) to crown himself the first Tsar of Russia in 1547. In a nod to the foreign princes attending this dinner, the central illustration depicts a Russian prince in medieval Russia welcoming his visiting foreign counterparts.
Earlier in the day, the foreign Princes had assembled beneath a circular platform outside the Kremlin to listen to the ceremonial formal proclamation that the Coronation of the Tsar and Tsarina would take place in three days hence. The Secretary of the Senate read aloud to the gathered crowd of dignitaries:
"Our most august, most high, and most mighty Sovereign Emperor Alexander Alexandrovitch having ascended the hereditary throne of the Empire of all the Russias and of the Kingdom of Poland and, of the Grand Duchy of Finland, which are inseparable from it, has been pleased to ordain, in imitation of his predecessors and glorious ancestors, that the sacred solemnity of the coronation and consecration of his Imperial Majesty, which his Majesty wills that his august consort, the Empress Marie Feodorovna, shall share, do, with the aid of the Almighty, take place on the 15th [27th in the Gregorian calendar] of May.
By the present proclamation, therefore, this solemn act is announced to all the faithful subjects of his Majesty, to the end that on this auspicious day they may send up to the King of Kings their most fervent prayers, and implore the Almighty One to extend the favour of His blessing to the reign of His Majesty, to the maintenance of peace and tranquillity, to the very great glory of His Holy Name, and to the unchanging weal of the Empire."
Potage crême de gélinottes
Cream of grouse soup
Consommé aux laitues
Chicken consommé poured around a poached stuffed baby lettuce heart
Bouchées à la Reine et Rissoles
Small cresent-shaped baked puff pastry cases filled with a mixture of poached chicken, truffles poached in white wine, chopped button mushrooms, and calf sweetbreads bound in a white chicken flavoured sauce; invented by and named in honour of the wife to King Louis XV, Queen Marie. (the rissoles on this menu that appear alongside the entry of Bouchées à la Reine, were likely made from a similar filling excepting the pastry-cases were fried rather than baked)
Truites de Gatschina sauce Sicilienne
Gatchina trout (from the Partitsa stream that runs through the Tsar’s Gatchina imperial estates south of Saint Petersburg) served with a Sicilienne sauce made from mixing sautéed onions with a reduced game stock flavoured with Madeira.
Noix de jambon aux épinards
Ham steaks on a bed of creamed spinach
Pâté de godiveau à la Périgueux
Pastries stuffed with minced veal and dressed in a Périgueux sauce made from braised truffles in Madeira
A cold dish of lobster medallions coated in a white sauce made from lobster, truffles, mushrooms, cream and Cognac; then sealed in a thin layer of aspic jelly.
Punch à la Romaine
Lemon, orange and vanilla flavoured sorbet over which a combination of rum and kirsch are poured prior to serving
Poulardes et canards sauvages
Roast poulardes (spayed hens) and wild ducks
Petits pois et choux fleurs, sauce Hollandaise
Baby peas and cauliflower served with Hollandaise sauce made from eggs, butter and lemon juice
Gateau Napolitain aux fraises
Napolitain cakes made from layers of baked marzipan dough, with a hole in the centre, that have been sandwiched together with apricot jam and then decorated with crystalised fruits; with fresh strawberries in the hollow
Parfait au café et glaces
Coffee parfait with ice-creams
The Kremlin's Saint George's Hall was the setting for this dinner in May, 1883.
(Photo: Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2021)
All rights reserved. Jake Smith © 2021