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Afternoon Tea at Marlborough House


Queen Alexandra

In the old days at Marlborough House, when the late King was Prince of Wales, says a writer in the Lady’s Realm, the exclusive afternoon tea parties given by the then Princess of Wales to her most intimate friends in the celebrated “Marlborough House” set were a special and most delightful feature of Royal hospitality.

This season Queen Alexandra has revived this form of entertainments, though naturally Her Majesty’s guests are strictly limited in number and are confined to members of the Royal family or those honored with Queen Alexandra’s most intimate friendship.

Afternoon tea when guests are present is usually served in the Red Saloon, one of perhaps the most beautiful apartments in Marlborough House. It is one of the spacious reception rooms on the first floor, and Queen Alexandra particularly interested herself in its furnishing when Marlborough House was being rearranged for Her Majesty after King Edward’s death. The room is full of interesting things. On a large table near the fireplace there is a book of sketches done by various royalties which always interests Her Majesty’s guests. Many of the sketches are portraits; a particularly interesting and clever one is a sketch of the present King and Queen done by the Dowager Empress of Russia. It was done at Marlborough House shortly after their Majesties’ wedding. Other royal sketches are by the Duchess of Fife, the German Empress, and Queen Victoria.

Near a beautiful tapestry settee, a present to Queen Alexandra from the Czarina, is a case containing part of Queen Alexandra’s collection of antique jewel boxes. It is a priceless collection and every box has an authenticated history, some of the French jewelled boxes are of the fourteenth century. One of these was, by the way, an anonymous present to the late King; it came apparently from China, but who the donor was never transpired. The most recent addition to the treasures in this beautiful apartment is a clock, said to be five hundred years old. It stands on a table near to the eastern entrance to the apartment.

Red Saloon, Marlborough house
Red Saloon, Marlborough house

Afternoon tea is served at four o’clock and is quite an informal entertainment. The guests who would probably not number more than half a dozen arrive a few minutes before the hour, and at four, Queen Alexandra, accompanied by Miss Charlotte Knollys, enters the room. The guests, of course, all rise at the entrance of their Royal hostess and Queen Alexandra shakes hands with each.

Tea is generally poured out by Miss Knollys; though if the guests are very few this office is sometimes performed by Queen Alexandra. The cakes, sandwiches, etc., are handed round by one or two of the younger members of Queen Alexandra’s household, who are usually in attendance on such occasions. It should perhaps be explained that with the exception of Miss Knollys, there are now no resident members of Queen Alexandra’s household. Members whose presence may be required are notified of the fact and they go to Marlborough House in the morning.

The usual afternoon tea service used at Marlborough House is one that was a present from Queen Victoria to Queen Alexandra when Her Majesty became engaged to King Edward. It is an old Georgian service that was once in the possession of Queen Charlotte, and is probably the most valuable of the many tea services in the plate room at Marlborough House. Among the most frequent guests at afternoon tea at Marlborough House are the Marquis D’Hautpool and Lady Dalkeith, who are both old friends of Queen Alexandra. The Princess Mary is a very constant guest at afternoon tea; the Princess is generally escorted to and from Buckingham Palace by her governess, but occasionally comes with one of her elder brothers. King George and Queen Mary are, of course, also very constant guests at afternoon tea at Marlborough House, but when Their Majesties are present there are never other guests except members of the Royal family.

In the summer time, when the weather is very fine Queen Alexandra and Miss Knollys nearly always have tea in the conservatory when by themselves, and Her Majesty frequently gets through a portion of her correspondence here in the summer afternoons, but guests are not entertained in the conservatory. Queen Alexandra, when in London, I sometimes honors some of her more intimate friends by going to afternoon tea at their house.

Her Majesty’s hostess is notified in the morning of Queen Alexandra’s intention of taking tea with her in the afternoon, and the lady so honored must, of course, deny herself then to all other callers. This is an established rule of etiquette that anyone who is in the royal entourage understands and observes. In this connection a rather amusing incident once occurred which may be worth telling. It happened in the late reign. Queen Alexandra went one afternoon to tea with a friend who, of course, instructed her servant to deny her to other callers whilst Her Majesty was with her. Now the servant had only recently entered the lady’s service and was not very familiar apparently with the appearance of Royal personages, and he, therefore carried out his mistress’ instructions rather too precisely.

It happened that whilst Queen Alexandra was with her hostess the Duchess of Fife also called, but Her Royal Highness was gravely informed that she could not see the lady whom she called on as the Queen was with her.

“Oh, that doesn’t matter,” said the Duchess of Fife with a laugh,” I am sure she will see me,” and then seeing the doubtful look on the servant’s face she added “The Queen is my mother!”

This announcement induced the servant to show the Royal caller upstairs, though the doubtful look still lingered on his face and didn’t quite vanish until he observed the manner of the greeting that took place between his mistress and the Royal visitor.

Invitations to afternoon tea at Marlborough House are by the way generally written personally by Her Majesty, but even if the invitation is written by Miss Knollys it is never given in the form of a command. It is couched in the informal language a lady would ordinarily employ in giving a friend a quite informal entertainment.

It is the custom for anyone asked to Marlborough House to write her (or his) name in the visitor’s book on her arrival. This is a custom adhered to at all Royal residences. The old visitors’ books at Marlborough House contain a collection of autographs that form one of the most valuable of such collections in the world. The signature of practically all the most notable people in every country in the world may be found in these books. Li Hung Chang’s, the German Emperor’s, Lord Rothschild’s, Mark Twain’s, Gladstone’s, are some of the signatures that one may detect in glancing over these autographed pages. On one page occurs the name “Olaf” written twice; the first signature got blotted, and the blot did not please the little Prince, so he insisted on writing his name again.

The conservatory has, by the way, particular interest for the King and Queen of Spain, for it was there that the Royal couple used to meet very frequently when King Alfonso came to this country in the summer of 1905 to pay his court to the Princess Ena. In those days, of course, Marlborough House was occupied by the present King and Queen, and the then Princess of Wales would frequently ask the Princess Ena to afternoon tea to meet her Royal lover. Tea was served in the
conservatory, there were seldom any other guests, and after the Princess of Wales had performed her duties as hostess the lovers were usually left to entertain themselves.

The Lady’s Realm (1913)

A St. Patrick’s Day Sociable (with Recipes!)


st patrick's day


The most successful feature of a pay entertainment given on March 17th was a chorus of “Irish Colleens,” who sang Irish ballads, to the great enjoyment of the audience. The colleens were twelve pretty girls wearing homespun frocks and wreaths of shamrock. They carried little shillalahs (blackthorn clubs) specially made for the purpose. At different points of the songs tiny lights appeared simultaneously in the shillalahs, suggesting Willo’-the-wisp. Green light was thrown on the colleens as “The Wearing o’ the Green” and other patriotic songs were rendered.


When Paddy’s Day is celebrated in the popular form of a supper the menu might be green turtle soup, or, less expensive,

Cream of Murphy Soup.
Olives. Pickles. Watercress.
Irish Stew, with Green Peas.
Irish Potatoes.
Sauterne Jelly, colored green, or Pistache Cream.
Emerald Cake.
Green Tea and Creme de Menthe.

For simpler refreshments there might be cress or lettuce sandwiches, potato salad or cold boiled salmon with sauce tartare, pistache cream with small iced cakes cut in fancy shapes, olives, crystallized mint leaves and coffee.

A clever idea last year at a dinner was the passing of small clay pipes with the coffee, their bowls stuffed with cotton soaked in alcohol. When these were lighted they not only produced a pretty effect, but were used to set on fire the cubes of sugar in each cup of coffee.

In case you elect to make your pistache cream at home, let me give you a reliable recipe. Serve the cream in meringue shells, which may be purchased of the confectioner. The green cream pressed between the white shells looks most attractive.


Mix a scant tablespoonful of flour with one cup sugar, add one egg and beat thoroughly. Have ready a pint of hot milk, and pour slowly over the flour and sugar. Return to double boiler and cook twenty minutes. Take from fire, cool, and stir in one quart of cream, a tablespoonful vanilla and two ounces of pistache nuts blanched and pounded to a smooth paste. Add a tablespoonful of orange flower water and freeze. Serve in the meringue shells. If your grocer does not keep the pistache nuts, pounded almonds with a flavoring of bitter almond and a little spinach juice to color green will produce almost the same result


In sending out your invitations for a St. Patrick’s Day entertainment ask the guests to honor the saint, the day and the nation by their dress. These costumes need not be elaborate. Green ties for the men, big green-covered buttons—if they so elect—for their waistcoats, and, of course, a sprig of shamrock for the “buttonhole. The women may wear wreaths of shamrocks, real or artificial, in their hair and corsages.

In decorating the house for such an event, green should predominate. String paper shamrock leaves on green cord carried from the corners of the table to the chandelier above the centerpiece. Glass candlesticks, with green shades, or green electric light bulbs could be used. A large cardboard harp, gilded and placed in a conspicuous position, labeling it, “The Harp that Once through Tara’s Hall,” is another suggestion. During the evening let some member of the company standing by the harp read or sing the poem. Let Irish guests sing Irish melodies and invite all present to repeat some Irish bull, giving a prize for the best.

Have a big punch bowl in a corner draped with Irish flags and labeled “Cruiskeen lawn.” This may be a temperance beverage, but should be colored green. Have near the entrance a real marble block or stone wrapped in moss, green paper or silk, and notify each guest that he is expected to kiss the “Blarney Stone.”

A clever idea for a St. Patrick’s entertainment is a big Jack Horner pie that can be purchased ready made or constructed at home from a big round hat-box. It should be covered with moss or green paper and filled with St. Patrick favors, each wrapped in green tissue paper and attached to emerald ribbons used to draw them from the box.

For card parties tally cards in white and green, with shamrock wafers, should be used, while Japanese napkins, doilies and even tablecloths in sets, decorated with the shamrock, may be secured to carry out the color scheme. Green paper salad and ice cases in the St. Patrick motif would be an appropriate finish.

If one does not care to purchase paper cases for the salads it is easy to make them at home from vegetables. For instance, green peppers make attractive cups for salads. To prepare them, cut a thin slice from the top and remove the seeds and white pulp. If they do not stand, cut a slice from the bottom also.

Cucumber boats, to hold chicken or other salad, are made by scooping out large-sized pickled cucumbers, while green apples, hollowed, serve for salads or as candlesticks. The list of dishes suited to a St. Patrick’s function is a wide one, and the menu selected may be simple or complex, according to individual circumstances and preference. Where a course supper is served it might be something like this:

Murphy Bisque with Shamrocks.
Pickles. Olives.
Paddy’s Best Friend—”The Pig that Slept in the Parlor.”

This can be a little roast pig on a bed of cress, a clay pipe in his mouth, his tail tied with green ribbons and a garland of green round his neck. If one does not care to have a whole pig, a ham, pork chops, or an Irish stew with potatoes and peas would be a tasty substitute.

The salad may be a potato salad or a Ballyshannon pickle, which is simply salmon served with dill pickles.

Other suitable dishes are sauterne jelly colored green, Irish moss salad, pistache cream in meringue shells, olive sandwiches, cakes with green icing and decorated with citron shamrock leaves, green and white mints and lime drops, salted pistache nuts, green tea and creme de menthe.


While almost any salad may be used in carrying out the green color scheme, the dressing in most cases is most appropriately a sauce tartare, which is a mayonnaise or cooked dressing made acid and green with chopped pickles, capers, nasturtium seeds, parsley or olives. A cooked dressing, also acid, is used for broiled fish and goes by the same name. To make the cold sauce tartare, put into a cold bowl a half-teaspoonful each sugar and mustard, a saltspoonful salt and one-half saltspoonful of pepper. Squeeze in two or three drops of onion juice, add the yolks of two raw eggs and stir well. Then commence adding, at first very slowly, a cupful of olive oil. At first the oil should go in almost drop by drop, but as soon as the mayonnaise begins to thicken it may be added in larger quantities. When all the oil has been used add a tablespoonful lemon juice and a teaspoonful tarragon vinegar and beat again.

Mince fine enough parsley to make a tablespoonful and rub with the back of a spoon to a paste, adding during the rubbing two or three drops of alcohol (not the wood alcohol). Stir this paste into the mayonnaise together with two tablespoonfuls of chopped pickles and olives. Stir well together. This may be used at once or can be prepared ahead so as to simplify the work of getting ready on St. Patrick’s Day.

The secret of success in the making of this dressing is to have the oil, eggs and dishes used, cold. Potato salad mixed with this dressing is specially suitable for the day and here is a genuine English recipe which, is called a savory:


Boil six large potatoes with their jackets and let them cool in their skins. Then peel, slice and chill. Chop very fine a heaping tablespoonful of parsley and half an onion, mix lightly, cover with sauce tartare and serve on lettuce leaves.


Soak two tablespoonfuls granulated gelatine in a half cupful of cold water for twenty minutes. Pour over the softened gelatine one and one-half cups boiling water and stir until completely dissolved. Add one tablespoonful lemon juice and a cup of granulated sugar. Color with spinach juice or leaf green, strain, pour into a shallow pan and chill. Serve in green apple cups, in glass sherbet cups or paper salad cases. A plain lemon jelly tinted green is also appropriate to the day, particularly if a bunch of real shamrock leaves is molded in it.


Beat to a cream one cupful butter, then add, little by little, two cupfuls granulated sugar and cream again. Add one-half cupful sweet milk, three and one-half cupfuls flour sifted with four teaspoonfuls baking powder. Lastly fold in the whites of seven eggs, beaten to a stiff froth, and enough green coloring matter to make a delicate green. Flavor with almond extract and bake in layers.

When cool, put together with a filling of boiled icing mixed with chopped raisins, currants and nut meats.

Cover with icing tinted green, tracing a shamrock vine about it with white icing, using for this purpose a confectioner’s tube, or a cornucopia made from stiff white paper. Put an Irish flag in the center, and about it a circle of green candy pipes, bowls upward. Sprinkle with candy shamrocks.

~ The Book of Frolics for All Occasions (1911)

Picnics And Picnicking


Edwardian picnic

In order that a picnic should prove the unqualified success it should be, more than a fine day and pleasant company – both highly important items – are required. Forethought must be exercised by the hostess in regard to the countless small details which go to make up the comfort of her guests.

Leave nothing to chance. If a river picnic be in question, and the party be going down from town, write a couple of days beforehand to the traffic manager, asking to have a carriage reserved for your party by whichever train you propose to travel, not forgetting to mention the class. Write also to engage the necessary boat or boats – weather permitting – from a reliable waterman, who will have soda-water and stone ginger-beer in readiness to stow aboard, if asked to do so, besides good-naturedly providing bottles of drinking water for making tea.

It is hardly too much to say that at least half the success of a picnic depends upon the providing of daintily packed and appetising looking fare, be it as elaborate or as simple as you please; and the invention of cardboard plates and dishes has greatly simplified picnicking, for they cost only sixpence a dozen and are strong enough to allow of cold chicken and salad or cold meat pie being partaken of upon them. The weight is practically nothing, and they take up very little space to pack.

It is, moreover, only necessary to take one plate for each person, no matter how many courses may have been provided, for the plates, when bought, are each filled with a circle of grease-proof paper, and to cut any number of extra circles from a quire of grease-proof paper, with the help of a big pair of scissors, is an extremely simple matter, and the picnicker, armed with a single plate and half a dozen papers, may par-take of salmon mayonnaise, chicken and salad, or meat pie, tartlets, fruit salad, or strawberries and cream in succession, wrapping up the remains of one course in the paper plate-cover, and putting it in the rubbish heap, and re-covering her plate with a fresh paper before going on to the next course. Charming fluted cardboard dishes for fruit, salad, and cakes are obtainable also, while smaller plates with a pretty blue-and-white border may be had for tea.

Pies and tarts baked in white enamelled tin dishes travel beautifully, and salad, having been well washed and shaken in a cloth, and then placed in a white damask table-napkin, will arrive crisp and fresh. Butter keeps best if packed in a white china jam-pot, tied down with grease-proof paper, and cream travels well if ordered in a patent stoppered bottle from the dairy, and wrapped in green leaves to keep it cool.

Jam tartlets make a delicious and much appreciated picnic sweet, and are easily packed if the pastry cases, when baked, are piled one on top of the other like saucers in a biscuit tin, and a small pot of jam taken separately to fill them on the spot. A couple of dozen cases will go easily into quite a small tin packed in this way, with a little tissue paper to prevent them from shaking about if the tin is jolted. A plain lunch cake or gingerbread cake is always much appreciated.

Both brown and white bread, wrapped in a white cloth to keep it fresh, should be taken, allowing a loaf to every three guests for luncheon or supper, for people often develop astounding picnic appetites.

Fruit salad travels well in a big jam-jar tightly tied down, or, better still, fitted with a screw top, and extra juice can be taken, if liked, in a separate well-corked bottle, and clearly labelled.

If salmon mayonnaise is taken, have the fish boiled, boned, and skinned, and wrapped first in oil-proof paper, and then in dry cabbage-leaves, and rolled up in a white table napkin. Carry the mayonnaise sauce in a screw-topped bottle with a good wide mouth, for, though it will pour in easily enough, it will probably be impossible to get it out after it has thickened.

Drinks are a very important matter. Stone ginger-beer is always popular, and, if wine is to be taken, hock and claret are best, with plenty of soda-water to accompany them. Few people know that tumblers are to be had for a penny each at any penny bazaar, and are quite good enough for picnic purposes. Choose the shape which will half-fit inside one another, and allow a couple of extra glasses in case of accidents.

For river picnics it is essential to have some sort of portable spirit-lamp and kettle for making tea, and a biscuit-tin in which to place them while boiling, to avoid all chance of setting light to the boat. For a tea picnic always provide lettuces, a pot of jam, potted meat, and fruit, and very simple cakes.

The tea should be measured out beforehand into squares of coarse-meshed butter muslin, which has previously been washed and dried, about five teaspoonfuls for each square is a good allowance, and the ends are then twisted up and tightly tied with cotton, allowing plenty of room for the tea to swell. When tea-time comes a bag of tea is dropped in the teapot, and boiling water poured on to it. This obviates the difficulty of making second brews of tea with a single teapot, for the bag can easily be taken out and thrown away, and a fresh one substituted.

A moonlight picnic given in the height of summer on a night on which a full moon is due as soon as the dusk falls is sure of success, and one’s menkind, who have been working in the City all day, as a rule welcome the idea of a few hours spent out in the open air with much enthusiasm.

Such a picnic party might meet at the railway station at half-past six or seven, and on arrival at their destination should take possession of a field where the grass has already been cut, spreading their tablecloth on sloping ground, so that if heat mists rise along the hedges of low-lying fields they may be high above them.

Each member of the party should be provided by the hostess with a Chinese lantern and a nightlight or candle, and these can be hung to the branches if the moon delay her rising or be overcast, and will also serve to light the picnickers on their homeward way, making a highly picturesque effect as they wind through the fields and by-paths.

Subscription picnics, if well organised, will prove an immense success. An honorary secretary must be appointed, who will draw up a list of necessary provisions, and then write postcards to each of the party giving directions as to what to bring.

In a party of ten, for instance, for a moonlight supper picnic, two might bring fruit, two a supply of daintily cut ham sandwiches, one a dozen hard-boiled eggs and a bottle of cream, one salad and paper picnic plates; two might share a big cake between them, and two provide drinks, the honorary secretary making herself responsible for a table-cloth and a few knives and spoons, besides her share of the provisions, for, with such fare as has been described, knives and forks would not be needed, while the fact of the provisions being divided up into so many separate parcels makes it easy to convey them to the picnic ground without hiring outside help. Impromptu picnic dances run on the same lines in summer-time by a party of intimate friends collected together at any little seaside or riverside resort, where a suitable room or boat-house, or even a barn with a polished floor, can be hired for the night, are delightful.

Each picnicker subscribes a trifle towards the music and the room hire, and each one arrives “on the night” armed with a mysterious parcel or packet, which, when unpacked at supper-time, reveals itself to be a basket of fruit, sandwiches, or a cake, or, perchance, a bottle of claret or hock, the provisions being partaken of in impromptu fashion on the stairs or in the garden.

Every Woman’s Encyclopaedia volume 4