TSAR NICHOLAS II
23 May 1896
Gala dinner in the Alexander Hall of the Great Kremlin Palace, Moscow,
following the proclamation of the Sacred Coronation of the Sovereign Emperor Nicholas II and the Sovereign Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna of Russia.
In truth there was no guess work left when it came to announcing the date of the coronation. Over 24,000 kilograms of gold and silver cutlery had already been transported to the Kremlin, from Saint Petersburg, to ensure the string of formal coronation banquets were a shimmering success.
The date for the grand event was an open secret. Foreign Princes had already arrived in Moscow from across the globe, of which the Russian empire alone stretched more than halfway.
But still, traditions are traditions. And on this day in 1896, just three days prior to the coronation, a quaint medieval ceremony took place outside the Kremlin’s arsenal in the Senate square.
At 9 a.m, in front of captured cannons from past military victories over France and the Ottoman Empire, squadrons of cavalry arrived along with regimental bands and gloriously attired heralds mounted on their snow-white horses with trumpets at the ready.
One of these heralds is depicted on this menu for the gala dinner to be held at the Kremlin later that night. They were an unforgettable site in their yellow, white, and black striped silk trousers; doe skin boots with spurs of pure gold; glistening gold silk tunics with the embroidered imperial arms emblazoned across their chest; and their wide-brimmed crimson hats lined with gold silk and sprouting plumes of orange, black and white ostrich feathers.
At the signal, the heralds blew their trumpets and the Master of Ceremonies read the official proclamation to fix the date of the coronation that would, “with the help of the Almighty, take place on the 14th day of May” (26 May in today's Gregorian Calendar).
With the formal proclamation made, the regimental bands boomed out “God Save the Tsar” before the heralds trotted off to all corners of Moscow, starting with a ceremony in Red Square, to repeat downsized versions of the official proclamation, and to distribute collectable copies of the imperial decree.
The artist, Baron Ernst Liphart, was commissioned to design the menu for the night’s gala dinner held in the Alexander Hall of the Grand Kremlin Palace. Liphart would go on to become the curator of paintings at the Hermitage and would produce some of the most famous portraits of Nicholas II, as well as leaving his artistic mark on the walls and ceilings of many Russian palaces.
His menu for the night fittingly depicted a herald on horseback outside the Kremlin, with cheering and smiling onlookers lining the route.
The dinner offered guests two dishes named after military greats including a cold dish of hazel-grouse with foie-gras and truffles named after Russian Prince and General, Alexander Suvorov; and a chicken and truffle soup named after Roman General Lucius Lucullus.
The gala dinner was mainly attended by Russian nobles and visiting foreign delegations. However the British contingent, and the myriad of princes and princesses linked to the British royal family by marriage, were not present as they attended a ball at the British Embassy to celebrate the following day’s birthday of Queen Victoria.
Lukullovski (Lucullus) Soup: Chicken and truffe consommé garnished with cockscombs, sautéed truffle slices and chicken quenelles with a centre of truffle purée, named after Roman General Lucius Lucullus
Various piroshky (Russian pies)
Холодное из рябчиков по-суворовски
Cold Hazel-Grouse a la Suvorov: A cold dish of hazel-grouse stuffed with foie-gras and truffles cut into dice, drizzled in Cognac and sautéed before being casseroled in a terrine, along with whole peeled truffles, in a game and Madeira flavoured fumet (named after Prince Souvarov)
Жаркое: крупные цыплята на вертеле
Spit-roasted game hens
Asparagus spears in Hollandaise sauce
An imperial herald, which is depicted on the menu, announces the Proclamation of the Coronation in Moscow.
The Official Proclamation
23 May 1896
"Our Most August, Most High and Puissant Sovereign, the Emperor Nicholas Alexandrovich, having ascended the hereditary throne of the Empire of Russia, and of the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Finland, which are inseparable therefrom, has deigned to order, after the example of the most pious sovereigns his glorious ancestors, that the holy ceremony of the coronation and anointment of his Imperial Majesty should, with the help of the Almighty, take place on the 14th day of May [26 May in today's Gregorian Calendar]; furthermore, his Majesty has commanded that his august spouse, the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, should participate in this holy function.
By the present proclamation this solemnity is announced to all the faithful subjects of his Majesty, in order that on this ardently desired day they may raise their most fervent prayers to the King of Kings, so that of his un- failing grace he may deign to bless his Majesty's reign, and preserve the public peace and tranquility to the greater glory of his Holy Name and the unalterable prosperity of the Empire."
The Kremlin's Saint Alexander Hall was the setting for this dinner in May, 1896.
(Photo: Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2021)
All rights reserved. Jake Smith © 2021