Have you ever wanted to take tea with the queens of England? This party celebrates four Queens who ruled England, honoring each with her own table, where guests are served tea and refreshments going back to the time of her reign. Guests move from table to table in a slow, stately version of musical chairs. Every half hour, the hostess announces, in her most royal herald-like voice, “All rise, please, in honor of her Majesty the Queen of England. Please be so kind as to take your cup and find a seat at the next table on your right.”
For decorations, feel free pull to out all the stops: velvet over windows and doorways, lace and brocade, gold paper doilies, your finest linens, silver, and china. Print out a picture of each queen (see website links below) and stand it on her table in a pretty frame. Drape each queen’s “throne” with rich fabric or velvet ribbon. Make a sign to put on the seat, held in place by a child’s dress-up crown. Each queen’s sign gives her name, the years she reigned, and the menu for her table, printed in an elegant script font.
Some musical choices fit for a queen:
English Renaissance or baroque music (look for William Byrd or Henry Purcell)
The “Masterpiece Theater” theme, (Jean-Joseph Mouret’s “Rondeau” from Symphonies and Fanfares for the King’s Supper)
Music for court dances, with names like Pavan and Gavotte
Arrange four royal tables in a wide arc, with one for each Queen as follows:
Elizabeth I (1558–1603)
Find her picture at http://www.englishmonarchs.co.uk/tudor_9.htm
When Elizabeth ruled, tea was not yet drunk in England, but roses grew by the acre. Sugar was a rare spice. Use doilies to make lacy ruffles around dishes, echoing the ruffled collars worn by men and women of her court.
- Rose hip tea with honey
- Cheese and onion tarts: For a medieval touch, add nutmeg, cloves, and raisins.
- Apples in wine sauce & cream: Boil peeled apples slices in red wine spiced with ginger and lemon peel. Serve them on a platter drizzled with warm cream, sweetened with honey.
- Almond pastries
Find her picture at http://www.englishmonarchs.co.uk/stuart_8.htm
The European rage for tea reached England just as Anne became Queen. All tea came from China in those days, and most of it was green tea, which the English drank with sugar and milk. If you have Queen Anne-style tables or chairs, with graceful curved legs ending in small feet, use them here. Place vivid tulips in a china vase at this table.
- Green tea (with sugar and milk, for the adventurous)
- Classic scones and fruit breads, with butter and cream cheese spreads.
Find her picture at http://www.englishmonarchs.co.uk/hanover_6.htm
Indian tea came into its own during Victoria’s reign, while afternoon tea became a national institution. She even had a tea cake named after her: the “Victoria sandwich” or “Victoria sponge.” It consisted of two layers of sponge cake separated by jam or a soft cream filling. Potted flowers were in every parlor in those days, so use them to decorate this queen’s table. Layer flowery handkerchiefs, placemats, old lace runners and new doilies over a tablecloth for a cozy Victorian look.
- Indian tea (look for Assam, Darjeeling, or Ceylon tea) with sugar, honey, milk, or lemon
- Victoria sponge cake
- Cucumber sandwiches on thinly sliced, buttered bread, with no crusts
Elizabeth II (1952-present)
Find her picture at http://worldroots.com/brigitte/gifs/queenelizabeth66.jpg The biggest change in tea during Elizabeth’s reign has been the tea bag revolution. Take advantage of it to offer a variety of flavors and varieties of tea at this queen’s table, displayed on a handsome tray or platter. She rules in a world of readymade delicacies, so use convenience foods to prepare the dishes on her table.
- Assorted teas, with sugar, honey, milk, or lemon
- Imported English crackers spread with soft, aged cheese
- Avocado and watercress sandwiches on whole wheat toast points
- Packaged cookies and shortbread
- Glazed fruit tarts
Choose an appropriate tea that will work with each of the tables. I suggest British Bliss as it is a hearty tea that will work well with nearly all the menus. If you want a dessert tea I suggest trying Dark Chocolate Decadence which will pair well with a fruit tart.