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The King Invites

Performing Power at a Courtly Dining Table

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Daniëlle De Vooght

This book was awarded the «Joop Witteveenprijs 2012».
In the aftermath of the French Revolution, the role of the monarchy in Western Europe was redefined. Together with the absolutist sovereigns, the historian’s interest in courts and court life in the nineteenth century seems to have vanished.
This book investigates what happened to the institution of the monarchy in the nineteenth century. More specifically, it examines whether the nineteenth-century Belgian monarchs can be described as influential, or even powerful. The volume also deals with another hiatus in history writing, namely food at nineteenth-century courts. The author addresses these two issues by examining the Belgian king and queen’s dinner guests, as well as the food that was served at the palace. She considers questions such as who was invited, who got to share a table, how did the guest lists evolve over time, was the food adjusted according to the guests and how did the food evolve?
A social network analysis of the dinner guests and a qualitative analysis of the court food are used as tools to tackle these questions. In this way, this book deals with issues that touch upon the very core of society’s development: power, hierarchies, status, imitation, segregation and distinction.

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Contents

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Acknowledgments ................................................................................ 11 Introduction ......................................................................................... 13 PART I. THINKING ABOUT THE EATING HABITS OF NINETEENTH-CENTURY ROYALS CHAPTER 1. Demarcating Power ........................................................ 37 The Power of Relationships ............................................................. 37 The Power of Food ........................................................................... 43 Studying Court Food ........................................................................ 52 Demarcating Power .......................................................................... 55 CHAPTER 2. Methodological Aspects ................................................. 59 Looking for Relationships: Social Network Analysis ...................... 59 The Food on the Table: Analyzing Menus ....................................... 67 CHAPTER 3. Setting the Stage ............................................................. 77 Belgian Monarchy in the Nineteenth Century .................................. 77 Belgian Ruling Classes of the Nineteenth Century .......................... 83 Elite Food in the Nineteenth Century ............................................... 88 PART II. THE KING INVITES CHAPTER 4. Dining at the Belgian Court ......................................... 103 A Place of (in)Frequent Gathering ................................................. 105 A Venue of Opportunity ................................................................. 115 CHAPTER 5. Dinner Guests of the Kings of the Belgians ................ 123 Functionaries Accompany Old Nobility at King Leopold I’s Dining Table (1831-1865) .......................................... 123 Diversification at Leopold II’s Dining Table (1865-1909) ............ 137 10 CHAPTER 6. Display at the Dining Table ......................................... 151 The Court’s Food in Numbers ........................................................ 151 Court Food: a Daily Display of Splendor? ..................................... 158 The Food on the Table ................................................................... 176 Typical Nineteenth-Century Cuisine .............................................. 186 CHAPTER 7. Culinary Networks of Power? ..................................... 193 Distinction Within the Palace Walls .............................................. 193 Impressing Outside Guests ............................................................. 216 Conclusions. Performing Power at a Courtly Dining Table .......... 239 Annexes ............................................................................................... 247 Bibliography ....................................................................................... 253 Index ................................................................................................... 281

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