I am looking at the painting by Gerome, Breakfast of Louis XIV and Moliere. There we have the Sun King at a four-foot table in the company of the writer. Very nice. The picture shows the king as the only one who keeps his hat on. Everyone else is bareheaded. No! This is all wrong. It was quite the other way around. The king never ate with his hat on; and so, to mark the difference, everyone else had to keep the hat on. To get into the palace to watch him eat, you had to have a hat and a sword. If you didn’t have either, it was no problem, you could rent or borrow them downstairs.
Breakfast was served at ten. Not that the king would get up so late; no, he was up early, but he had to give his cooks time to get ready, for the king was to preside over a meal of an ogre! Five courses were served all at once. Drums beating as they carrying in the meat! First the boiled stuff which included soup, fish and sausage. Then the fried and roasted meat, no pork or mutton, just beef and lots of poultry: pigeons, chicken, turkey and duck. Ham came together with pates and vegetables, — asparagus, artichoke, cabbage, mushroom and peas, he was very fond of green peas! Then came the hors d’oeuvre with salads, and finally the dessert, which included fruits, dry fruits, jams and preserves. As for the drinks, in the beginning of his royal career, Louis drunk Champagne and then later, following the doctor’s order had to switch to Bourgogne, red wine being better for digestion.
Now King Louis could eat! Everyone else after him paled by comparison. But they had to keep appearances, so the menu stayed more or less the same; they were just gliding over it. The king and the queen never ate together, hers was a separate show. There were some meals when, for example, a young prodigy Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart played, then all the legitimate kids and the royal parents had to be present; otherwise, not at all. Once the royalty had finished, the food was taken back to where every page and servant could stuff themselves; then the leftovers were sold or given away.