Waddesdon Royal Upstairs Downstairs


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Waddesdon

Rosemary Shrager and Tim Wonnacott visit Waddesdon Manor in Buckinghamshire, where Queen Victoria stayed in 1890, at the age of 70.


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'Just what do you have to do when a Queen decides to pop in to see you? Not just any old Queen. Victoria!

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'Like a pair of obsessed Victoria groupies,

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'we're pursuing her around the country to the posh pads she visited.

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'We'll be delving into her personal diaries to reveal what happened behind closed doors.'

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-'Today, we're in Buckinghamshire.'

-Welcome to Waddesdon Manor.

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We're going to be finding out what happened one afternoon in May

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when a rather elderly Queen came here for lunch.

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'And as someone who has spent a lifetime exploring country houses,

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'I'll be upstairs finding out just what turned Victoria on here.'

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She was apparently quite amused.

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'And as a chef who is passionate about great food, I'll be whipping up a Victorian souffle

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'that, thanks to an original menu, we know the Queen enjoyed during her stay.'

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-I'm afraid I do use a mixer. Sorry.

-I've got my mixer here.

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'And testing Tim's taste buds.'

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I hope it doesn't have the effect of the tipsy cake you gave me the other day.

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At the time of this visit in 1890,

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an ageing Queen Victoria was approaching her 71st birthday.

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She had been on the throne for over half a century

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and was still in mourning for her beloved Albert more than 30 years after his death.

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Most of our royal visits so far

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have involved Victoria staying for a number of days,

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but here at Waddesdon she stayed for just a matter of hours.

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This was a simple lunch engagement,

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but it was big news in 1890

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because by this time in her reign, Victoria was hardly seen in public.

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Plus, it was a major coup for Waddesdon's owner

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and builder, Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild.

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He was one of those arch supremo, late 19th century networkers

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and he would have relished the opportunity of showing the place off to his sovereign.

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He spent a year planning her visit and even had the electricity installed.

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-Don't you think that's remarkable?

-I certainly do.

-I think it's remarkable.

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By this stage of her life, Victoria lived a life of seclusion,

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spending most of her time at Osborne House, Balmoral and Windsor.

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So for her host, French-born Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild, this was a huge honour.

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It was also a great chance to rub shoulders with the Queen

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and show off his country pad, built in the style of a French chateau.

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The bulk of this building was only ten years old at the time of the Queen's visit,

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but there was an interesting report in the Telegraph newspaper

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which reported that the North Front here was in deplorable condition

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just a few days before the Queen arrived.

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I bet they worked incredibly hard to get that one right.

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They had to work hard because Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild had decided

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that he needed to add on a whole new west wing

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to increase the space for entertaining and the like.

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So Waddesdon was bang up to date for the Queen's arrival.

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I'm going to head downstairs to see how they coped in this fabulous house.

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And I'm going to stay very firmly upstairs to check out how the Queen got on with her host.

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-Toodle-oo.

-Bye.

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Victoria made the day trip to Waddesdon from Windsor,

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travelling on the royal train to nearby Aylesbury.

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She was accompanied by her daughter Princess Beatrice and her husband Prince Henry of Battenberg.

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Victoria's fourth daughter, Princess Louise, was already there.

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Her host Baron Ferdinand kept a detailed account of the entire visit.

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In it he recounts his relief that after days of heavy rain the clouds parted for the big day.

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He wrote, "The glass meantime," by which he meant his barometer,

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"had done its duty and a more perfect day for the visit

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"or one better suited to the Queen's peculiar taste could not be imagined.

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"A brilliant sun shone from a perfectly blue sky.

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"A crisp, cold wind tempered the atmosphere."

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And by that I assume that he's referring to Queen Victoria's dislike of intense temperature,

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so a bright, blue, crisp, cool day would have suited her perfectly.

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The whole town turned out to celebrate this rare public appearance from their Queen.

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This sketch from The Illustrated London News report

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shows Victoria receiving a bouquet in the market square from one of the crowd.

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Having arrived here,

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she would have been greeted by Alice de Rothschild,

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Ferdinand's younger sister

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and arguably the true matriarch of this house.

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Anybody home?

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Where better place to start our exploration of the treasures at Waddesdon than in this room,

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the Baron's private study and drawing room?

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Now, of all the rooms at Waddesdon that most closely resembled things as they were

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when Victoria visited, this is the space that does it best.

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How do we know? Because the de Rothschilds kept photographs

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of their collections and the layouts of the rooms.

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There is Baron Ferdinand seated in this chair.

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At his feet is his favourite poodle called Poupon.

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The fold-screen behind the settee is exactly the same as it is in the photograph.

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And peeping up above the screen, three of the collection of pictures in this room.

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While Victoria was hobnobbing with her host at the north entrance,

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the staff she had brought with her entered at the east end of the manor leading to the servants' quarters.

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And this used to be the kitchen corridor.

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There were about 50 staff on duty for the royal visit, so it would have been a hive of activity here.

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You can just imagine the hustle and bustle of the servants coming backwards and forwards

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because it was their main access to the smart part of the house

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which, for once, is exactly where I'm going.

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'Food historian Ivan Day is in one of the dining rooms laying a place setting,

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'just as Victoria would have found it for her lunch

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'and it shows how posh dining etiquette had changed dramatically during her lifetime.'

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When she was younger, she would have dined in a totally different way.

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All the dishes of the first course were on the table, an enormous array of different foods.

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They helped themselves or were they actually served by the butler?

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In the old "a la francaise", ancient style of dining, it was very, very sociable. You helped your neighbour.

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By the end of the century, a much more trimmed down style of dining had evolved.

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Each dish was brought to the table in succession,

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so there was room on the table for wonderful centrepieces and floral ornaments.

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And this style became known as the Russian style of dining, "a la russe".

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But my favourite thing here is the napkin.

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-If I open it up for you, you can see the laundry identity mark.

-How lovely!

-Ferdinand de Rothschild.

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So that is actually one of the Baron's original table napkins from the 1890s.

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'Also on the table is a very precious piece of archive.'

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So this is the actual menu for the luncheon that Victoria enjoyed here

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-when she visited.

-How wonderful is that!

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You've got your potage which is your first course, your soup.

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And poisson and entrees.

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One of the more robust dishes is a fillet of beef a la chartreuse.

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We know that Ferdinand commented on the fact that she had two helpings.

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He said that she really spent a lot of time eating and was worried that she might be overeating, actually.

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-The last course is a selection of vegetables and some sweet dishes.

-Right.

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And we're going to make the very last one that was served - petits souffles a la royale.

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-They're little iced souffles.

-How exciting! I can't wait.

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'This menu just goes to show how much effort her hosts went to for the Queen's lunch

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'which is why it's so remarkable that Victoria chose to eat in this room

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'with her two daughters and Prince Henry while the Rothschilds and 30 guests ate next door.'

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And so separated by a small lobby area where the Royal Artillery Band were playing,

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Victoria sat and enjoyed her lunch in this, the main dining room at Waddesdon.

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House rules today require me to take my shoes off

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before I toddle off on this divine Aubusson, 18th century carpet.

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The local rag at the time, The Bucks, records that the Queen's luncheon was served at 2.20

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by Mr Barker, the house steward.

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Security came in the form of two Highlanders, one footman and one of Victoria's Indian attendants

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because at this point in her reign she was also Empress of India.

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In the aftermath of the Queen's visit,

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polite society gossiped about the fact that the Queen dined alone

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with no member of the de Rothschild family,

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but with characteristic bravura,

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Ferdinand de Rothschild retorts and records,

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"That she lunched alone with members of her family instead of lunching with us

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"has been commented on in society, but without reason.

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"The proposal that she should do so emanated from me

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"as I was well aware not only of her disinclination to take her midday meal in the company of strangers,

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"but of the inevitable rule which she never breaks of so doing."

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We can see from that that the Queen, just shy of her 71st birthday,

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was a lady well set in her ways.

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'Baron Ferdinand may have been filthy rich,

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'but he believed in sharing that wealth with his neighbours.

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'Every year, he threw a garden party for staff, villagers, their families and even schoolchildren.

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'They were known as the Baron's Treats.

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'His generosity didn't stop there.

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'He gave the local village their first ever supply of purified water which he piped from his household.

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'And in 1897, seven years after the Queen's visit, he built the Waddesdon Village Hall.

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'Waddesdon's original kitchens are gone, so it's here that I'm catching up with Ivan

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'who has set up our own confectioner's kitchen.

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'We're making iced souffles, the actual dessert Victoria was served here at lunch.'

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We're going to make first of all an Italian meringue which we make by boiling up sugar in a sugar boiler.

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If you could start beating the eggs.

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'Unlike conventional meringue which is baked in the oven,

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'this method involves cooking our egg whites by adding boiling sugar.'

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I'll make the syrup by putting some sugar into this boiling water

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and I'm going to just get it to start to dissolve,

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but we mustn't stir that, as you know,

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because sugar crystals will start to form and it will ruin our meringue.

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Instead of stirring it, if you tap it, you can encourage the sugar to dissolve

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-without affecting the quality of the syrup later on.

-I've never seen that before.

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'The secret to a good Italian meringue is the consistency

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'which means heating the sugar to the perfect temperature.

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'Too hot and it won't set properly. Too cold and it won't set at all.'

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Professional confectioners in the 19th century used to dip their fingers into some cold water.

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It horrifies everyone, this is so hot. They would plunge their fingers in and pull a piece of sugar out.

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I'm happy to do that, but it can be very dangerous unless you know what you're doing.

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A safer way is to get a little bit of the molten sugar on to a spoon.

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It's warm, but it's not hot enough to burn me.

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-Then if I just pull my fingers apart, I get the formation of a thread. Can you see?

-Absolutely.

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-We call that "the long thread" which means that the temperature of that is absolutely perfect.

-Yeah.

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-We've really got to pour it in now.

-OK.

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I always find this has got to be a two-person job to get a good one done.

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-I'm afraid I do use a mixer. I'm sorry.

-I've got my mixer here.

-I know.

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'While we whip up our Italian meringue, back at the manor,

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'Tim's finding out what Victoria got up to after her private lunch.'

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Ferdinand de Rothschild and his sister Alice were very wary

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of tiring out their distinguished, but elderly guest.

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Nevertheless, they were keen to make sure Victoria got a glimpse of the private rooms on the ground floor.

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This is called the Tower Room. This is the ultimate destination point for any favoured guest

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because in it the owner would display the very best of his collection.

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And this naturally is where Victoria was brought.

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Now, Victoria's taste was for the glitzy.

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She liked French style furniture.

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She liked things covered in ormolu, this rich, gold metal.

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And she particularly was fond of furniture encrusted with porcelain.

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Queen Victoria so liked the French furniture that Ferdinand had here

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that she sent her Superintendent of Furniture from Windsor Castle down here to Waddesdon

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to look at the collection.

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It wasn't just the French furniture that Victoria took a fancy to.

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There was one mod con that really grabbed her attention.

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That revolved around a light switch.

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Not these light switches. These are later ones.

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But she was so unused to electricity for lighting, she stood playing with the light switch

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turning it on and off

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and on and off, marvelling at all this new technology.

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She was, apparently, quite amused.

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'While Ferdinand was entertaining the Queen with his modern lighting,

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'in the kitchen they worked by hand without the aid of any electrical appliances.

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'So far, I've whipped up sugar and egg whites and our meringue mixture is ready for the next step.'

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-Look how beautifully it's set.

-Gorgeous.

-It reminds me of satin.

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-Do you know what meringues were called at the time of James I?

-No.

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Satin biscuit.

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Oh, really? How interesting.

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'We start with a few spoonfuls of our meringue, to which we fold in finely-sieved raspberries

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'and some cream.'

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I do an exact recipe today like this. But I use a gelatine leaf to hold it.

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That was done in the 19th century, but it was considered to be a little too artificial,

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especially for Queen Victoria. So this one is much more challenging.

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The only thing holding it up is the air bubbles holding hands.

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-I must say, the confectioners were pure artists.

-They were very skilful people.

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They didn't have the aids we have, digital thermometers, nothing like that,

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but they were able to produce food of most extraordinary quality.

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'The last ingredient is an iconic flavour of the 19th century -

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'maraschino, a cherry liqueur. We just add one teaspoon and our souffle mixture is ready.'

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Now why do ramekins have these funny little creases? Do you know why?

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-I've always thought it was decoration.

-What it is is a residual memory of cases made out of paper.

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-Oh, right.

-You had little pleats. It's a fossil memory of this.

-How interesting!

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'We place the home-made ramekins into a chilled pan and start spooning in the liquid.'

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These dishes were made by servants who worked very long hours. They had plenty of time.

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They were at the beck and call of the chef and often lived in-house.

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-To replicate this sort of food, you really do need an enormous amount of patience.

-Yes.

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You know what I'm doing now, it's rather like when I'm getting my hair done.

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-I can't wait to get out.

-Right.

-I'm going to stop. I've done it. And mine is better than yours!

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You made a mess and I did not.

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'Time to freeze the souffles. The Victorians filled a bucket with ice and sprinkled salt over it.

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'This brings the temperature down to a chilly minus 13 Celsius.'

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If we leave that for a couple of hours, our little souffle will be absolutely perfect.

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'In the heart of the house, after the Queen finished drooling over the French furnishings,

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'she headed up for a well-deserved rest in the state apartments,

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'but at such a pace for a 70-year-old that Baron Ferdinand recounted in his diary,

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'"In spite of the rheumatic affliction of her knee,

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'"Her Majesty ascended with comparative ease." And what awaited her was worth the effort.'

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This delicious little drawing room was set aside as part of the suite of rooms

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that Ferdinand gave to the Queen on the day of her visit.

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It's known as the Green Boudoir

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and it's a space that he would have been particularly proud of.

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And one rather quirky feature would definitely have caught her eye.

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By setting up two mirrors on either side of this small space,

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and aligning them perfectly,

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instead of there being just one of me, if I wave in the mirror there are actually hundreds of me.

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And if I was a queen, I'd be able to practise my wave.

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"Hello! Hello."

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We can imagine it would be rather cosy in here,

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Queen Victoria and her family all gathered about.

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And it's here that the Baron chose to make his presentation of his gift, a jewelled fan.

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And he records the moment.

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"Were I of a shy disposition, a more embarrassing situation could hardly have been provided.

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"The Queen was standing in the small Green Boudoir, flanked on either side by her two daughters,

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"who seemed rather curious to observe how I should acquit myself of my task.

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"I delivered a harangue worthy of an Elizabethan courtier

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"and having received the Queen's acceptance of the present,

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"I knelt on one knee and presented it to her."

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'Next up on this whirlwind tour, the Queen explored the wonderful Waddesdon grounds.

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'Who knows? Maybe Victoria used her new fan to cool her in the afternoon heat.'

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On the day before the lunch visit, one of Queen Victoria's New Forest ponies was sent

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especially to Waddesdon along with her pony carriage.

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As Baron Ferdinand noted, this was rather a comical contraption,

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a sort of cross between a real carriage and a horse-drawn bath chair.

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The advantage of it was it allowed the slightly lame Queen

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to get all round the gardens here, enabling her to look at all the marvels

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which included this parterre. Have you ever seen anything quite so beautiful?

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There are no less than 11,000 annuals and perennials planted out in these beds,

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not once a year, but twice,

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to maintain this constant stream of brilliant colour.

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11,000 plants! Have you got a window box? One of those hanging baskets with eight plants in it?

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Try 11,000 on for size.

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'It wasn't only the gardeners who had a tough job.

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'The housekeeping staff were under the control of Baron Ferdinand's sister, Alice.

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'She created a strict set of rules designed to preserve Waddesdon's valuable collections

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'as curator Rachel Boak explains.'

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-Tell me a bit about Alice's rules.

-A lot were common sense and passed down through country houses.

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One of these is covering furniture. This is to protect it against light and handling.

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'She also insisted the blinds were kept drawn, even when they had guests.'

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Considering the importance of the people who came here, she was Draconian with them as well.

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When Edward VII paid a visit, she told him not to touch the furniture and she wouldn't raise the blinds.

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-What happened when Victoria came?

-I'm sure that the rooms she was going to go into

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would have been lit appropriately and covers would have been off.

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Everything would have been glittering.

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'Even Alice's brother Ferdinand suffered from her strict rules.

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'When he wanted to indulge his passion for cigars while Victoria was here, he had to nip outside.'

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I rather like the sound of Alice, but I would not like to get on the wrong side of her!

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'Alice was not only a stickler for the housekeeping. Outside, she ruled over 60 gardeners

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'to make sure not a blade of grass was out of place. We know Victoria was impressed by what she saw.

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'Current head gardener Paul Farnell explains how the wonderful creations on show today

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'stem from a radical type of gardening Alice helped pioneer.'

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It's what we call 3D bedding. It was discovered around that period.

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It's based on a photograph or a diascope, an image we found,

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-and we decided to recreate them.

-This is something Alice was keen on?

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She'd wander round the garden with a trowel and nitpick. She was a perfectionist.

0:23:290:23:35

-This sort of thing appealed to her, the intricacy of it.

-Yes.

0:23:350:23:39

-And she'd want to show it to Victoria.

-Indeed. It was the cutting edge at the time.

0:23:390:23:45

'Alice's 3D bird sculptures were a clever tie-in

0:23:450:23:49

'to one of the Baron's finest garden installations - the aviary.

0:23:490:23:54

'But judging by Ferdinand's diary entry, the colourful display of birds were not fully appreciated.

0:23:540:24:01

'"The Queen's attention was diverted from its gaily-feathered inhabitants by the conduct of her pony

0:24:010:24:07

'"which shied at the sight of cockatoos and macaws, which screamed and flapped their wings.

0:24:070:24:14

'"The poor birds meant no harm and were merely asking me for their usual piece of sugar."

0:24:140:24:20

'As the afternoon drew to a close, Ferdinand left Her Majesty in the Oriental Tent on the tennis lawn,

0:24:200:24:26

'where she took tea with her family and Alice.

0:24:260:24:30

'Victoria's trip here may have been brief, but it marked the start of a friendship with Alice

0:24:300:24:36

'that lasted the rest of her days.

0:24:360:24:38

'It's perhaps no surprise that two such strong-minded women hit it off.

0:24:380:24:44

'Victoria once called Alice "the all-powerful one".'

0:24:460:24:50

A few years after her lunch here at Waddesdon, Victoria was visiting Alice in one of her properties

0:24:500:24:57

in France. They were out walking together and Victoria, inadvertently, walked

0:24:570:25:04

on a newly-planted bed.

0:25:040:25:06

Alice, quick as you like, turned on her and said, "Get off there!"

0:25:060:25:12

Can you imagine that?!

0:25:120:25:14

Alice telling off Queen Victoria.

0:25:140:25:17

'Time now to eat. Our souffles are set and ready to serve,

0:25:200:25:25

'but not before a little final flourish - chopped pistachio nuts.

0:25:250:25:29

'I wonder what Baron Wonnacott will make of these treats.'

0:25:290:25:34

This is an actual dish that Queen Victoria had at her lunch here.

0:25:340:25:39

-So if you'd like to taste it...

-Well, I've spied over here

0:25:390:25:43

a very small bottle of something which says it is Tokaji.

0:25:430:25:48

-This is sweet wine?

-It's a dessert wine and it comes from Hungary.

0:25:480:25:52

They would have drunk this during the whole sweet course.

0:25:520:25:56

They'd have some dessert wine out.

0:25:560:25:59

Either a Sauterne or some Tokaji or something like that.

0:25:590:26:03

-Would you like to taste it?

-Yes, please. Here we go.

0:26:030:26:07

-That's incredibly fluffy, isn't it?

-Mm.

0:26:090:26:12

And just full of zingy flavour. Not too hard.

0:26:120:26:16

So many of these iced things are over-iced, if you know what I mean.

0:26:160:26:21

That's the Italian meringue. Very special.

0:26:210:26:24

-I'll have a little snort of this.

-Me, too.

0:26:240:26:27

I hope it doesn't have the disastrous effect of the tipsy cake you gave me the other day!

0:26:270:26:34

-I haven't quite recovered.

-I think Victoria would have loved that.

0:26:340:26:39

-She's known to have hoovered up her lunch.

-She'd hoover this up.

0:26:390:26:44

Now we have been blessed by Ferdinand's meticulous records.

0:26:440:26:49

I have found for you, Rosemary,

0:26:490:26:52

a card there, look, that shows us Alice...

0:26:520:26:56

What an amazing photograph of her.

0:26:560:26:59

-She looks like a woman who knows her own mind.

-Yes.

0:26:590:27:03

This is far more precious. This is an original.

0:27:030:27:07

-It's an image of Ferdinand.

-He did quite a lot for the local people.

0:27:070:27:13

-He was quite a man, wasn't he?

-He certainly was.

0:27:130:27:17

And he did love his Royal connections. There's a passage in his diary that sums it up.

0:27:170:27:24

"Around the Queen of England there hangs an undefinable prestige,

0:27:240:27:29

"the result of a long and gracious reign.

0:27:290:27:33

"A supreme queenly dignity.

0:27:330:27:36

"Every word she utters bears witness to the fact

0:27:360:27:41

"that she's a lady in the true sense of the word

0:27:410:27:45

"and her every attitude is that of the first lady of the land."

0:27:450:27:49

-He did like her.

-He did. He was very fond of her, yes.

0:27:510:27:54

And with that, Queen Victoria's visit to Waddesdon Manor was concluded.

0:27:540:28:01

'Next time, on the last Royal Upstairs Downstairs,

0:28:030:28:08

'we look back over Victoria's life and explore how she changed

0:28:080:28:13

'from the young princess we first met, through her marriage to Albert

0:28:130:28:17

'and, finally, her long period as a mourning widow.

0:28:170:28:21

'It's an amazing story of our longest-reigning monarch.'

0:28:210:28:26

Subtitles by Subtext for Red Bee Media Ltd - 2011

0:28:360:28:40

Email [email protected]

0:28:410:28:43

Antiques expert Tim Wonnacott and chef Rosemary Shrager travel in the footsteps of Queen Victoria, Britain's longest reigning monarch, looking at the houses, castles and stately homes she visited throughout her life.

At the time of her visit to Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire, in 1890, an elderly Queen Victoria was approaching her 71st birthday. She'd been on the throne for over half a century and was still in mourning for her beloved Albert more than 30 years after his death.

By this stage of her life, Victoria lived a life of seclusion, spending most of her time at Osborne House, Balmoral and Windsor. So for her host, French-born Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild, her visit was a huge honour. It was a great chance to rub shoulders with the queen and show off the country pad he'd built in the style of a French chateau.

With chef and food historian Ivan Day, Rosemary discovers how posh dining etiquette had changed dramatically during Victoria's lifetime. She also makes raspberry ice soufflés, the actual desert Victoria was served here at lunch. Unlike a conventional soufflé baked in the oven, this method involves cooking egg whites by adding boiling sugar syrup to them.

And Tim discovers how the queen was intrigued by a new-fangled invention that her host had just installed: domestic electric lighting.