When setting the table for dinner with the family, you're likely to reach for paper towels and perhaps those laminated place mats that your children made in kindergarten — not your finest linens, crisply ironed, and polished silver candlesticks (are they even polished?). And forget about your wedding china and crystal glasses. Seems extravagant, like something you’d experience once a year, right? Yet for wealthy British aristocracy, as depicted in the British miniseries Downton Abbey, these impressive meals were a regular tradition.
In Edwardian times, nearly any occasion was reason for a dinner party, be it an out-of-town vistor or a birthday. And as the largest meal of the day was taken at night, these parties were more than just a meal — they were used to solidify relationships and elevate the status of one’s family in society. From a myriad of butlers and footmen who tended to guests’ every need to the multitude of courses featuring fine delicacies like French wines and rich meats, and the impeccably set tables, dinner parties were thought to be the ultimate social test, securing one’s place in society, and creating an opportunity for hosts to impress their guests.
In the matter of an evening, a hostess could be ruined if the food or service wasn’t just right. That’s a lot of pressure for one person, who isn’t even doing the cooking or serving (and all without electricity). But when hosting a dinner party just like Lord Grantham and Cora do, you need not fret. Inspired by the extravagances and luxuries of the feasts in Downton, we’ll show you just what you need to do to dine like royalty.