Page images

the rule rather than the exception; indeed, he may be said to have revolutionised the British dinner-party. At Marlborough House dinner begins at a quarter to nine, and is never allowed to last much over an hour. Occasionally during dinner soft music is played. The menu is always served à la Russe, that is to say, nothing is carved in the dining-room. Certain dishes are constantly met with in the menu, notably genuine turtle-soup, venison when in season, champagne sorbet (a kind of French ice of which both the Prince and Princess are exceedingly fond), and various sorts of salads. The wines are all decanted, and the Prince's favourite champagne is an 1889 vintage. The dessert service generally used is Royal blue Sèvres.

All the catering is done in the house, and every dinner served is prepared under the direct supervision of the Prince of Wales's chef (the famous Ménager), who has under him the comparatively small staff of two cooks, a confectioner, and ten kitchen-maids. But it is perhaps owing to this fact that there is no confusion in the Marlborough House kitchens, and that everything is done with celerity and perfect cleanliness. The kitchen department of Marlborough House is not without interest, for in addition to the two huge kitchens there are a number of supplementary rooms, where the different kinds of cookery from the soups to the confectionery are carried out. These are none too numerous, considering that in them the whole of the cooking is done, not only for the Prince and Princess of Wales, but also for the whole Household. Moreover, on the occasion of a garden party, the very ample refreshments provided in the long marquee on the lawn are entirely prepared “at home," and include, in addition to champagne, claret-cup, and so on, every kind of sandwich, and some half-dozen different ices.

Some years ago the Prince was rarely seen, even at dinner at a private house, without his favourite valet Macdonald, the son of the Prince Consort's jager; and now, whenever the Prince dines out, one of his own servants invariably accompanies him and attends to him through the dinner, whether it is a public banquet or a private dinner-party. Indeed the Prince of Wales very rarely enjoys the luxury of being alone; even when walking up St. James's Street, or turning into the Marlborough Club, he is almost invariably accom

panied by one of his equerries; and it need hardly be said that the most trustworthy detectives in the London police force are charged with the task of watching over his personal safety, for the appearance of no public personage is better known to the man in the street

[graphic][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

than is that of the Prince of Wales. Yet, strange to say, his life has never been once attempted.

The Prince of Wales has always been an enthusiastic admirer of the stage, and his tastes are so catholic that they range from melodrama at the Adelphi to grand opera at Covent Garden. When His Royal Highness has made up his mind that he would like to go

to the theatre, the Royal box is booked in the ordinary way of business, and charged to the Marlborough House account, the price not being increased from the ordinary library tariff. The only difference made in honour of the Royal family is that, if any other patron of the theatre has already engaged the Royal box, he is requested to waive his right. The Prince, however, is always reluctant that this should be done, and he generally requests his secretary to send a special note of thanks in his name.

Both the Prince and Princess always desire to be treated exactly the same as if they belonged to the ordinary audience, and nothing annoys them more than that attention should be drawn to them by the playing of the National Anthem or "God bless the Prince of Wales." At one time the managers used to keep the curtain down till the Royal party arrived. His Royal Highness heard of this, and was so much annoyed at the thought of the inconvenience thus caused to the public that he gave strict orders that the curtain was never to be kept down beyond the advertised time on his account. On the other hand, he always makes a point of waiting till the final curtain has come down before rising to leave. The only occasions on which he ever breaks this courteous rule is when he goes to a theatre which has no private entrance. Then the Prince and Princess always anticipate the final curtain by two or three minutes, so that their departure may not disturb the carriage arrangements of the rest of the audience.

London managers have reason to be grateful to the Prince of Wales, for whenever he has visited a theatre the booking sensibly increases, the more so that when His Royal Highness likes a play he goes again and again, and recommends it to all his friends. Even when he finds it impossible himself to attend the benefit of some well-known actor or actress, he always puts his name down for stalls or boxes to a substantial amount.

At the opera the Prince occupies an "omnibus," a double box on the ground tier, the Royal box itself being on the tier above; while the Princess has a box all to herself, where she is usually accompanied by one of her daughters. The Prince is a great musiclover, and always watches the progress of the opera very keenly, ensconcing himself behind the red curtain of his box so that he

cannot well be seen, although he can survey the whole house through his lorgnette. He is often accompanied at the opera by the Earl of Lathom, whose long white beard is distinguishable anywhere; and he never has ladies in his box, although during the entr'actes he often visits the Princess and his daughter in their box.

His interest in the dramatic profession is unaffected and sincere. Some four years ago a very interesting theatrical dinner took place

[graphic][merged small][merged small]

at Marlborough House, Sir Henry Irving, Sir Squire Bancroft, Mr. Hare, Mr. Kendal, Mr. Toole, Mr. Wyndham, Mr. Beerbohm Tree, Mr. Alexander, Mr. David James, Mr. Arthur Cecil, and Mr. William Farren being asked to meet the Duke of Fife, Sir Christopher Teesdale, Mr. Sala, Mr. Burnand, and Mr. Pinero.

The Prince has always patronised the French plays when performed in London, and he is as popular with the French theatrical world as he is with the dramatic profession in London.

The Prince was at one time very fond of taking a hansom in the streets of London, just like an ordinary person, and it is said that he always pays the driver half a sovereign whether the distance is long or short. His Royal Highness is patron of the Cabdrivers' Benevolent Association, and he takes a marked interest in these hard-worked and deserving servants of the public, never missing the annual meeting, at which, indeed, some of his best speeches have been delivered.

It is hardly necessary to say that the Prince of Wales need never take a hansom except for his own amusement. The stables of Marlborough House form a most important section of His Royal Highness's London establishment. They cost over £25,000, and are, from every point of view, models of what town stables ought to be. In the coach-houses are some interesting carriages. The State Coach, which is practically never used, is almost exactly like that which is kept at Buckingham Palace. A Russian sociable, lined with dark-blue morocco, was a gift from the late Tsar of Russia to the Princess of Wales, but it is considered too showy for the London streets, and Her Royal Highness prefers a light victoria, which is generally drawn by her two greys, Chelsea and Brief. The Prince's brougham, made by Hooper, is an exact facsimile of one which caught His Royal Highness's fancy in Paris many years ago. It is lined with dark blue, and is a natty unobtrusive-looking vehicle.

During the season over forty men are employed in the stables, and, as all servants in the Prince of Wales's employment are eligible for a pension after ten years' service, the competition for vacancies on the staff is keen. Every animal in the stables is taken out every day for exercise. There are forty-five stalls and twelve loose boxes, the name of each horse being inscribed on an enamel tablet over his stall. In the harness-room is a curious collection of State harness and some old saddles, together with a valuable collection of whips, chased in gold and studded with gems. All the harness, however, actually used by their Royal Highnesses is very plain.

« PreviousContinue »