Edinburgh World Heritage - News Article


Food fit for a King

More stories from the Edinburgh Food Heritage Trail.

Jul 8, 2015

The Edinburgh Food Heritage Trail is a partnership between Edinburgh World Heritage, National Library of Scotland, National Trust for Scotland, Essential Edinburgh, Ondine, Contini Edinburgh and the Edinburgh New Town Cookery School.

The Edinburgh Food Heritage Trail reveals some of the hidden links between the city’s unique built heritage and it food traditions. Read more...

Edinburgh’s Most Lavish Dinner?
The dinner held in Parliament Hall on Saturday 24 August 1822 must rank as the most lavish ever held in Edinburgh. The Lord Provost was entertaining King George IV during his visit to the city, and the dinner was to be the culmination of days of pomp and ceremony.

A grand total of 303 guests attending the dinner, under the direction of George Steventon, head chef of the Albyn Club on Princes Street. He had his work cut out that evening, supervising two kitchens set up in the laigh hall underneath the main venue – one kitchen for the guests and another the king.

The hall itself was also suitably decorated, with nine large chandeliers hanging from the old oak beams of the roof. The tables groaned with silver candlesticks, gold and silver plate, wine decanters and coolers. The glassware and goblets were specially made in the shape of thistles. Music was provided by a military band, a choir and the band of Niel Gow, the most famous fiddler of his day.

The King enjoyed turtle and grouse soups, stewed carp and venison for his first course, followed by a grouse and apricot tart, but there were plenty of dishes to choose from. The second course for example for the other guests included; crème au marasquin, crème a l’Italienne, grouse, quail and turkey, petit pois, beignets d’artichaux a la sauce, pate, patisseries, fruit tart, apricot tart, green beans and jelly. Traditional Scottish dishes were also on the menu though, including haggis, sheep’s head and hotch potch.

Dessert for the king was served in golden dishes, with peaches and pineapples ’of uncommon size’, apricots, raspberries, currants, cream ices and orange chips. For the others the dessert came courtesy of Mr Davidson, confectioner of St Andrew Street, a selection of fruit served in ‘the richest china’. Parliament Hall is open to the public, Monday – Friday, 10am -4pm.

Inviting a King to dinner
Riddle’s Court is a sixteenth century hidden gem, tucked away off the Lawnmarket in the Old Town. In 1598 it was used to host a royal banquet, in honour of the Duke of Holstein, brother-in-law to King James VI. He was on an official visit to his sister Queen Anne, and the city council decided to host a banquet in his honour. As Edinburgh did not a have a grand town hall it was usual for the city officials to take turns in hosting important events in their own houses, and so Bailie McMorran’s house at Riddle’s Court was selected.

The City Treasurers Accounts gives us an idea of the preparations, and the sort of food on offer at the banquet. Game was obviously to play a major part, ‘foullis wylde and tame’ appearing many times, along with vension provided from the king’s own larder. Both the confectioner and the napkin dressers were French, but the cook was definitely a Scot, by the name of John Rechesoun. Left: A section of painted ceiling from Riddle's Court dating from the time of the royal banquet.

The accounts also mention some the servants hired for the occasion, including payments to four trumpeters to play fanfares for the king and his guest. Spare a thought though for the servants charged with carrying the ‘vessels and other furniture to the banquet and hame again’, all the way from the Palace of Holyroodhouse at the bottom of the hill.

Riddle’s Court is currently undergoing renovation work by the Scottish Historic Buildings Trust, but you can still explore the courtyards of the building. Look out for the entrance through a red stone archway on the south side of the Lawnmarket.

The Black Dinner
Edinburgh Castle was the setting for one of the most notorious murders in the city’s history.

In November 1440 were the earl of Douglas and his brother were invited for dinner at the castle with the young King James II. The invitation came from Sir William Crichton, Chancellor of Scotland, who was planning a trap. He feared that the Douglas clan were becoming too powerful, and intended to take drastic action.

As legend has it, the king and the Douglas’ were getting along well, enjoying the food and entertainment, when the head of a black bull was suddenly brought into the room. This was a signal for the earl and his brother to be seized. The two were dragged outside, given a mock trial, and summarily beheaded.

The story later inspired writers, such as Sir Walter Scott who wrote this of the horrific event:

"Edinburgh Castle, toune and towre,
God grant thou sink for sin!
And that e'en for the black dinner
Earl Douglas gat therein."

It also provided an idea for George R.R. Martin for his Game of Thrones series of novels, inspiring the ‘Red Wedding’ scene where Catelyn Stark and her son are murdered in spectacularly gory fashion. Find out more about Edinburgh Castle.

Royal Dining Today
The Royal Dining Room here was first used by Queen Victoria, and is still used today by Queen Elizabeth II. Read more about the Palace of Holyroodhouse

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