Dinner started at six o’clock, and went on for several hours. It usually consisted of dozens of courses, with several dishes served at once, as David Beevers explains:
‘It was called ‘service à la française’; there was ‘service à la française’ and ‘service à la russe’. ‘Service à la russe’ is what we use more or less today at formal dinners with each course brought to you by a waiter. ‘Service à la française’ was the courses were laid out on the table and you helped yourself to them and helped your neighbour to them and you might have three or four, what we would call courses, all laid out on the table at the same time. The table was very overloaded with plates and food and all kinds of things going on.’
At the end of the 18th century, it was customary for gentlemen to sit at one side of the table and ladies to sit at the other, with the order dictated by rank. George preferred a different arrangement, which, like his chefs, was a French import: placing men and women next to each other. It also meant greater contact between men and women, with all the possibilities for discreet dalliance that this entailed. For George, it meant he could sit beside whoever was his current favourite. And rather than being stuck at the end of the table, he sat in the middle, where he could be at the centre of things: the life and soul of the party.
Please remember you can ask staff if you have any other questions about this room.