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Buildings

Porto, the Unvanquished City

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I bring you some photographs of the city I was born in, Porto (or Oporto), in Portugal, from around the Edwardian Era. This is the second biggest city in Portugal, and one with a very rich history. It is known as the “Cidade Invicta”, or the “Unvanquished City”, for standing undefeated against many invasions.

Santa Catarina Road, circa 1875
Saint Anthony Hospital, circa 1900

 

In 1911 there were almost 190 000 people living in Porto, a city that gathered a lot of merchants and artists. Only one year before Portugal had had a revolution that put an end to the Monarchy and started the First Portuguese Republic, which would last for almost two decades.

Royal Theater of São João (St John), circa 1900

Since the city rests by the sea, its population was always very trade oriented, and it had a large bourgeois class (as opposite to Lisbon, the capital, where the nobility and the politicians lived). In the 19th century the city had a industrial revolution and turned itself into a very important hub in the Atlantic.

Lello Library, circa 1905 (still exists today)
D. Maria Bridge, circa 1877

This made it so many artists and creators of some sort went to Porto at least once. This bridge, for example, was built by Gustave Eiffel, known for the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty. This affluence turned Porto into a modern city, with a lot of caffés, theaters, bookshops, gardens, fairs, and exhibitions.

Clerigos Street, circa 1897

 

The outskirts of the city, though, were still very dedicated to agriculture (although decreasingly so). It was there that the famous Oporto wine was made, and still is, and the beverage was already one of the main trades of the city, and even the country.

Nossa Senhora da Guia Beach, circa 1900
Grand Hotel, circa 1900

 

Chinez Coffee Shop, circa 1907

And finally, some illustrations and older photographs of this quaint city by the river. I hope you liked this gallery!

Crystal Palace Museum, 1879
circa 1881
Alidos Avenue, circa 1900
Cordoaria Garden, circa 1900s

 

Buckingham Palace and State Banquets

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Buckingham Palace, 1904

Buckingham Palace became a royal residence in 1761, but it reached its height of splendor during the reign of King Edward VII. The palace was remodeled during the reign of Queen Victoria, but she preferred Windsor Castle, and after Prince Albert’s death, she never occupied the Palace for more than six days out of the year. When the Prince of Wales ascended the throne as Edward VII in 1901, he swept away forty years of neglect, where the darkened paint-work and endless dust sheets had prompted Bertie to name it ‘the Sepulchre.'” During those forty years, Buckingham Palace had “only come to life for Drawing Rooms or Garden Parties, and on the rare occasions when the Queen allowed some Royalty to spend a few days there. This honour was accorded the Shah of Persia in 1873, but he caused considerable perturbation by sacrificing a sheep on one of the best carpets, and Victoria did not invite him again.” ***

An article in an 1895 issue of Home Notes gives a contemporary glimpse of the palace:

From the principal court a portico leads into a hall, the roof of which is supported by white marble columns. On one side, approached by a short flight of steps, are the Sculpture and Picture Galleries, the one above the other, and extending through the centre of that part of the palace. The Picture Gallery is lighted from the roof, which is in a modified Gothic style. Comfortable settees invite the visitor to rest and survey the works of art at his leisure. Masters of the Dutch and Flemish schools are well represented; and in the collection is Rembrandt’s famous picture, “The Shipbuilder and his Wife.”

The Grand Staircase ascends from the hall, and the Throne Room is approached through an ante-room and the Green Drawing-room. The Throne Room is upholstered in crimson silk, and the ceiling decorated to represent the War of the Roses. The Princess Royal was christened in this apartment; and during the married life of the Queen the members of the Privy Council assembled there for their meetings. Since the death of the Prince Consort the Queen has held the Drawing Rooms there.

The State Ballroom is a magnificent room on the south side. It is furnished with three tiers of seat s; columns of porphyry support the gilded ceiling, and the floor is of inlaid polished wood. The Royal dais is at one end.

The Grand Saloon, decorated with designs of the flowers emblematic of the three kingdoms and acanthus leaves, is in the western front overlooking the gardens, which are extensive enough to insure a certain amount of privacy.

The State Dining-room, where the notabilities are entertained, has a most ingenious contrivance for concealing the musicians who perform during the progress of the banquet, their gallery being divided by a thin wall of perforated metal from the principal part of the room.

Corridors lead to the various suites of private apartments set apart for the use of any member of the Royal Family who may be visiting Her Majesty. Those used by the Queen are in the north front of the palace, and communicate with the Yellow Drawing-room.

The grounds, over forty acres in extent, are guarded from the eyes of the curious by walls surmounted by formidable-looking spikes. Within stands the Pavilion, built during the present reign.

The most spectacular state banquet planned was that of Edward VII’s coronation banquet in June of 1902. No doubt the many heads of state anticipated the splendor of the banquet hall, which was 200 feet long by 75 feet wide, and was approached by the guests through a state hallway approximately a block long, richly furnished and decorated with paintings and porcelain. In the dining salon was a great collection of solid gold plate and huge gold ornaments…brought from the vaults for the occasion. One of three buffets contained pieces of plate too large or otherwise too cumbersome for use. These included one piece of great size taken from the wreck of the Spanish Armada.

In color the gold-laden table blended with the decorations in the hall, which are white and gold, with crimson carpet and upholstering to match. The crimson effect was further carried out by the exclusive use of poinsettias as floral decorations. In the balcony at the end of the room was a military orchestra. It was not hidden from view by floral or other decorations. The attendants were in full state dress, which was heavy with gold lace.”

Royal chef Gabriel Tschumi and his kitchen staff spent days preparing the sumptuous banquet of six or seven courses, which included caviar and quails, as well as dishes especially created by Tschumi for the occasion, such as Côtelettes de bécassines à la Souvaroff (snipe cutlets covered in brandy, pâté and breadcrumbs, placed in a pig’s caul, and served with beans, truffles, mushrooms, and a Madeira and truffle sauce) and Consommé de faisan aux quenelles. Alas, alack, alas this amazing meal was not to be consumed, for on the evening before the ceremony, it was announced that the King had been struck down by appendicitis. On June 26, the date the banquet was to have been held, it was the poor of Whitechapel and not the foreign kings, princes, and diplomats who supped on the dishes created by the royal chef.

Further Reading:
For The Royal Table: Dining at the Palace by Kathryn Jones
Charlemagne’s tablecloth: a piquant history of feasting by Nichola Fletcher
Article about the Banquet Hall
History behind the banquet hall and its set up

*** Anecdote from Virginia Cowles’ Gay Monarch: The Life and Pleasures of Edward VII. I found an article in the New York Times where this occurred in a Berlin palace.

The Savoy

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Savoy HotelAfter nearly three years, and at a cost of £220 million, the Savoy Hotel has reopened to much fanfare. The hotel and its equally famous restaurants, are over one hundred years old, and played a large part in the popularity of restaurant dining in Britain. By the turn of the century it seemed “scarcely credible that until the Savoy Restaurant was opened, there was no place where society could sup after the play; not a single restaurant in all London where a man could take his wife or daughter.” Supper at the Savoy became an institution amongst smart society, with late-night suppers, luncheons on the terrace over-looking the Embankment, and even afternoon tea de rigueur whilst in London (and even more shocking, Sunday dinner at the Savoy!). The Savoy quickly became a fashionable location for large dinners, balls and cotillions, which in previous generations would have been unheard of for aristocratic gatherings.

The actual hotel was luxurious and elegant, boasting of modern amenities such as “giant lifts” or “ascending rooms” manufactured by an American company, electric light, hot and cold running water, and speaking tubes for room service. The hotel was designed not for ordinary rooms, but for dozens and dozens of suites, each with its own private sitting-room or rooms, one or more bedrooms, bathrooms, lavatories, etc. The famous courtyard through which guests entered in their carriages or motorcars, was 6,000 square feet, and filled with palms and flowers, and a splashing fountain. On the Courtyard level were the billiard rooms, a ballroom for private theatricals, hair-dressing saloons, and ticket offices for all manner of tickets (to New York by ocean liner, or to a theater, et al), leaving guests with nothing to do but lift a finger for service.

The Restaurant, whose kitchens were guided by the exquisite hand of August Escoffier until 1897, served upwards of 250 dinners a day, a similar number of “little suppers.” It was in the Savoy’s kitchens where Escoffier invented such dishes as Pêche Melba for Australian soprano Nellie Melba, poularde Derby (roast chicken with rice, truffles, and foie gras stuffing, garnished with truffles and foie gras), and Tournedos Rossini (tender slices of the heart of the fillet of beef, topped by foie gras and truffles) for the Italian composer, to name a few of his culinary creations.

Besides extraordinary cuisine, the restaurant–paneled in mahogany, with golden frieze, and a gold and red ceiling–witnessed many famous diners and equally infamous dinner parties, the most unique being the Gondola dinner hosted by American millionaire George A. Kessler. At Kessler’s command, “the central courtyard was flooded to a depth of four feet and scenery erected around the walls, costumed staff and guests recreated Venice, and the two dozen guests dined in an enormous gondola. After dinner, Enrico Caruso sang, and a baby elephant brought in a five foot birthday cake.”

Lt. Colonel Nathaniel Newnham-Davis, military historian, sportsman, and gastronome, chronicled his dining experiences in London in two books (one published in 1901, the other in 1914), where the Savoy always came up trumps. A dinner for two in 1901, consisting of two couverts, 1s. ; bortsch, 3s. ; sole savoy, 6s. ; mousse jambon, 6s. ; poulet polonaise, 8s. ; salade, 2s. ; fois gras, 6s. ; asperges verts, 7s. 6d. ; pêches glacées vanille, 7s. ; one bottle of champagne 133, 15s. ; cafe, 2s. ; liqueurs, 2s. came to a total of £3.5s.6d! With such delicious fare, and such elegant surroundings, it was no question as to why many chose the Savoy not only for dining and trips to London, but even living in suites for years!