Festive Table for Emperor Franz Josef

Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria at his desk in the Vienna Hofburg. Image from Wikimedia Commons

Emperor Franz Josef of Austria, the longest of the Habsburg rulers, was a stickler for order and frugality. The emperor’s dining preferences, however, reflect his status as one of Europe’s most powerful man: hearty, generous, and always a many-course affair.

In the book Franz Joseph I of Austria and his Empire published in 1968, author Anatol Murad details the emperor's daily life and a portion was dedicated about the king's foods. Breakfast was served terribly early at 5 AM and it would only be until 12 or 12.30 in the afternoon that he would take another set of meals. A three-course lunch was prepared but according to his valet, the emperor was too modest to ask for some refreshment between meals.

"He thought the kitchen would not be equipped to give him anything!" wrote Murad. It might have had worried him to cause some fuzz among his kitchen staff if he asked him to send him a mid-morning sandwich. The emperor, nevertheless, kept a tin box of biscuits next to him, nibbling some to sustain himself during his long morning work.

Murad makes it look like the Austrian monarch was staid in his eating habits and he was in his bearing. But decades earlier, Henri de Weindel thought the emperor was a consummate diner. In his book The Real Franz-Joseph, Henri de Weindel wrote that the aged emperor would take another breakfast at eight o'clock consisting of soup, joint, vegetables, entremets (the great triumph of Viennese cookery), and dessert.

At 5 pm, the emperor would take his four-course dinner, Murad explained. When Frau Schratt would come to join him, he would have her favorite dishes served. The emperor did not want anything elaborate; a carefully prepared but tasteful meal would suffice him. Every meal comes with a beer or wine, although cognac was also served occasionally. The emperor also preferred the best quality cigar.

Dinner, according to de Wiendel, was a gratifying affair for the sovereign. Six least six courses are brought by kitchen staff and he would east strictly in this order: thick soup would be consumed first, followed by beef, fish, a roast (fowl or game) and entremets. Dessert would cap the meal. The Emperor enjoyed a generous serving of each menu and he would always usually request for a second serving. The fifth meal came at eight in the evening, consisting of tea, bread and butter, and cold meat. An hour after, the sovereign would retire to bed.

The monarch’s drinking habit was tempered. Despite in possession to one of the world’s biggest and finest cellars, Franz Josef drinks little, especially if he had taken a full meal.


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