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The first Baroque residence on the Upper Rhine

Rastatt Residential Palace

Antechamber to the margravine's apartment; Rastatt Residential Palace. Image: Landesmedienzentrum, Andrea Rachele
TO THE SOUND OF TRUMPETS

THE TABLE CEREMONIAL AT THE RASTATT COURT

Regular midday and evening meals as well as celebratory feasts were subject to strict rules, recorded in various court regulations. What was the point of these Baroque mealtime ceremonies? They were a demonstration of a personal claim to power as well as royal showmanship.

Detail of the ancestral hall, Rastatt Residential Palace. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Steffen Hauswirth

Celebrations were held in the ancestral hall.

ROYAL DISHES

Most Baroque palaces did not yet have dedicated dining rooms. The midday meal was usually served in the antechamber, such as the "first antechamber to the ballroom on the left," which Sibylla Augusta used. This is where the royal family dined privately or with select members of their court; the margravine frequently dined here alone. For celebratory feasts, a variety of tables could be set up in the ancestral hall for members of the court.

Portrait of Margrave Ludwig Wilhelm von Baden-Baden. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, credit unknown
Portrait of Margrave Ludwig Wilhelm von Baden-Baden. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, credit unknown

The presiding prince: Ludwig Wilhelm von Baden-Baden and Margravine Sibylla Augusta.

FROM THE PRINCES' TABLE TO THE PAGES' TABLE

There were different tables for different members of the court. They followed a hierarchy, which dictated the table arrangements. Royal members of court were seated at the princes' table, the rest according to their rank, either at the marshals' table, the squires' table, the controllers' table, or at the royal valets' table, the footmen's table or the pages' table. The food traveled quite a distance before it reached the tables: The royal kitchen was located in a different wing and the royal household servants had to carry the dishes to the hall. Margrave Ludwig Wilhelm had decreed that the pages and chamberlains would bring the meals to the table while the footmen would take them away again. The cup bearer brought the wine, chilled it and served it to the royal members of court.

HIERARCHY AT THE PRINCES' TABLE

There was specified seating at the table. The sovereign took the seat at the head of the table, his wife to his left, the male members of the royal family to his right, the female members to his left. In Rastatt, Margravine Sibylla Augusta sat at the head of the table after her husband's passing in 1707. What's more, the chairs also reflected rank. Armchairs were provided for the royal diners, simpler reclined chairs for those of lower rank.

Detail of an architectural painting in the margravine's audience chamber; Rastatt Residential Palace. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Lutz Hecker

Meals were announced with great fanfare.

EVERYTHING IN ITS PLACE

The rules for waiting-at-table specified which squire would stand behind the seat of a given royal individual during feasts. The order in which food was served and on what kind of tableware, for example, the "gold ware" or the "round silver bowls" was recorded in the rule book "Concerning Serving at Table." The court chapel would announce the start of a feast to the sound of trumpets and drum rolls and festive music was played during the meal.

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