2 FEBRUARY TO 23 MARCH Tues to Sat 10 – 4 daily.

The day His Majesty the Shah of Persia came Dinner is the story behind ‘Below Stairs – The Meal’

Jointly researched, designed and made by Jane Vincent and Marilia Carvalho, ‘Below Stairs – The Meal’ commemorates the work of the household and estate staff at Waddesdon Manor, near Aylesbury Buckinghamshire.

Among the royalty and political leaders who were visitors to Waddesdon Manor for House Parties and Dinners were His Majesty The Shah of Persia, Prince Edward and other members of the Royal Family, Churchill & Kitchener; their signatures can be seen in the Visitors’ Book in the archives at Windmill Hill. Whilst these eminent guests highlight the role of the Rothschilds and the House in the history of the UK, little is recorded of the part of the staff in ensuring these events passed successfully. ‘Below Stairs – The Meal’ provides a window into the lives of the staff of Waddesdon Manor by illustrating aspects of their work as they prepared to serve a meal for the House guests and their entourage during the visit of the Shah of Persia on 10 July 1890.  Most staff did not live at Waddesdon but came from London residences for the duration of the house party.  Six staircases served to keep them out of sight and male and female staff slept in separate wings of the House.

Each quarry (individual pane of glass) tells part of the story of the eventful visit of the Shah of Persia. He had expected Queen Victoria’s son, and future King, The Prince Edward to stay for the duration and when he did not The Shah became upset and refused to leave his room.  In the end a combination of tricks performed by the Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild’s poodle dog Poupon, and playing Martinet’s 1774 Marvellous Elephant musical automaton enticed him to join the guests and the visit passed off with success. Indeed, he was so entranced by the automaton that it was feared it would break as he called for it to be played again and again.


The border shows the Rothschild Wine Bottles seen in the cellar today, the Five Arrows of Waddesdon crest and the sand coloured patterns carved into the stone on the front wall of the House.

Starting top left:

Linen Book – records of all the linens in the house including bedding and kitchen cloth

Summer Garden Tea – Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild made a lot of contributions to Waddesdon village. His long term staff had pensions and accommodation after retirement.

Servants’ Room -Typical shared bedroom for servants with simple furniture

The State Bedroom – Alongside this room is a smaller room for the lady’s maid

Concordia Integritas Industria – Harmony Integrity Industry – the Rothschild Family motto

Cat and Dog tiles still seen today in the former kitchen now the café

Rothschild Ram from the door knob on the front of the house – these are seen throughout the House

Rothschild Wine in their signature  Imperial Size – can be seen today in the cellar or in the wine shop at Waddesdon Manor

Typical Menu from the Chef’s menu book – none of the menus from the 19th century survive so this one is bit later

Poupon the poodle performing a trick and a close up Poupon

QR code – which may have brought you to this page!

Jelly Moulds – Copper coloured and shapes from moulds on dresser shelf

Bakst Rats – Detail from The Sleeping Beauty: The Bad Fairy visits the Christening by Leon Bakst

The Visitors Book for 10 July 1898 showing The signature of His Majesty the Shah of Persia and a note of thanks for the hospitality written in Farsi  :  ‘Written to the Remembrance of the Palace of Ferdinand Rothschild in England 10 July 1880’.  Edward and George are sons of Queen Victoria and George her grandson

The Dining Room in which the dinner would have been held

Between the pictures of the rooms are the pattern of the stair case hand rails

Working in the fields on the Estate

The Home Farm Waddesdon Manor Estate

The Kitchen staff and Chef. Behind the lady on the left in this picture is the dresser with bottles, moulds and pans. There is a hatch and this panel is designed to fit that hatch space.  If you go for a coffee or tea at Waddesdon Manor today you can see everything in this 19th Century picture except the table, and the people now are the visitors and the waiters.

The panel is made using centuries old traditional leaded stained glass methods, and includes the contemporary techniques of fusing and photographic decals.  Some of the glass has been painted, and others have images of original photographs from the archives transferred and fired onto the glass. There is a QR code to link the viewer to the makers’ and Waddesdon Manor web sites.


With thanks to Pippa Shirley, Head of Collections Waddesdon Manor, The Rothschild Foundation and The National Trust


Waddesdon Manor Below Stairs – The Meal photo Sylvain Deleu

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Designer, maker of traditional leaded stained glass and sculptural glass - one off works for exhibition and commission, inspired by nature, digital technologies and society