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An extraordinary ensemble in an idyllic setting

Bebenhausen Monastery and Palace

Ausschnitt Speisekarte Schloss Bebenhausen, Weiblen, 1895; Foto: Hauptstaatsarchiv Stuttgart
Saddles of venison and pancakes

Menus for the royal table

The menus that King Wilhelm II had made for his guests during the hunting season are an unusual testimony to the culinary delights in Bebenhausen Palace. The feast tables were always richly covered, and there was wild game even at breakfast.

Hunting days with prominent guests

Like his predecessors, King Wilhelm II regularly held hunting days in Schönbuch with his second wife, Charlotte. The two weeks of hunting took place in late autumn during deer mating season. During this time, various guests arrived in droves: the king's relatives, friendly members of the nobility, officers, and important people from throughout the land. Perhaps the most prominent guest was Emperor Wilhelm II, who took part in the hunt in Bebenhausen in 1893.

Wildschweinjagd, Detail Wandmalerei Winterrefektorium Kloster Bebenhausen; Foto: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Thomas Kiehl
Bebenhausen, Besucher im Blauen Saal; Foto: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Niels Schubert

The royal pair held hunting days at Bebenhausen, rounding out each evening with festival banquets in good company.

Menu from Bebenhausen Palace, breakfast, November 29, 1906. Image: Hauptstaatsarchiv Stuttgart

Even at breakfast, wild game was on the menu.

A hearty breakfast

In the morning, before departing for the hunt, the company ate breakfast. The kitchen served several courses with various types of meat. On November 29, 1906, for example, there was smoked salmon and potatoes, chicken with rice and carrots, a saddle of venison with lettuce and stewed fruit, raised pancakes, cheese, fruits, and a dessert. After two to three drives, the hunters gathered for a simple and informal meal, called the hunter's breakfast, at which the hunters drank mulled wine.

Menu from Bebenhausen Palace, full meal, November 28, 1895. Image: Hauptstaatsarchiv Stuttgart

An ample meal was served in the evening.

The dinner table

Dinner in the palace was the culinary highlight of the day of hunting. The menu was composed of three courses. Generally, nine dishes were served, accompanied by appropriate wines. The menu from November 28, 1895 planned the following for the guests: oysters as an appetizer, black bread soup and lake trout, a main course of English roast, chartreuse of pheasant, and roasted veal of venison with salad and stewed fruit, followed by raspberry semifreddo, cheese, and a dessert.

Illustration of "Das Menu" ("The Menu") by Ernst von Malortie, 1878. Image: Wikipedia, in the public domain

A truly classic cookbook.

Oriented towards contemporary cookbooks

When developing menus, the court chefs of Stuttgart used established cookbooks such as "Das Menu", or "The Menu", by Ernst von Malortie, published in 1878. The work by the lord steward of the royal court in Hanover was considered a benchmark of cookery in the 19th century. Johann Rottenhöfer's 1858 cookbook, "Anweisung in der feinen Kochkunst mit besonderer Berücksichtigung der herrschaftlichen Küche", or "Instructions in Fine Cooking With Special Consideration of the Royal Table," was equally influential. By the time World War I broke out, it had been published in several editions.

Frühstückskarte von Schloss Bebenhausen, Detail Illustration; Foto: Hauptstaatsarchiv Stuttgart

Hunting motifs on the menu, such as a bellowing stag, were coordinated with the meal.

From the court printing office

The menus have been preserved as the legacy of Otto Lanz, the last royal court hunt inspector of Württemberg. He was the only close friend of the king who was not a member of the nobility, and often joined him on hunts. The menus were prepared in the court print office in Stuttgart. Depicted are the palace and bellowing stags. On site, Weiblen, headmaster of Bebenhausen, who had been the king's calligrapher since 1898, wrote the menu of the day by hand on preprinted cards.