I love setting beautiful tables and go to great legnths to arrange unique centerpieces for dinner parties.. I always put a charger under the dinner plate. At a recient dinner party I was asked the origin of the charger and why it is so caller - a charger. So - why is this large, lovely piece called a charger and how did it originate?
Found this at dictionary.die.net:
a bowl or deep dish. The silver vessels given by the heads of
the tribes for the services of the tabernacle are so named (Num.
7:13, etc.). The "charger" in which the Baptist's head was
presented was a platter or flat wooden trencher (Matt. 14:8, 11;
Mark 6:25, 28). The chargers of gold and silver of Ezra 1:9 were
probably basins for receiving the blood of sacrifices.
A decorative charger plate is an elegant and underused element of a place setting. Also known as a chop plate, service plate or underplate, a charger plate gets its ‘decorative’ label because it never directly touches any food; instead it functions as an aesthetic resting place onto which food-bearing dishes and bowls are placed. A charger plate is usually larger than a dinner plate but smaller than a food-serving platter. As it need not hold food, it can be made out of a wider range of materials than regular dishes. In addition to standard china, metal, wood, mother of pearl and even leather varieties can be found.
A charger plate is a large dish that is on the table when you are seated and other plates and dishes are placed, or loaded, on top of it. The term is either from the Anglo-Norman chargeour meaning that which loads, or from the Old French chargeoir meaning a utensil that is used to load (in this case food onto a dish). The command "charge your glasses" traditionally given before toast is of the same origin. The term dates to the early 14th century.
Don't confuse a trencher for a charger — they are NOT the same thing! A charger, as stated above, is essentially an oversized plate that goes under a dinner plate at a formal table. Besides looking pretty, it also serves from keeping any drip off the dinner plate from getting on the tablecloth.
A trencher on the other hand, is meant to be consumed. Usually a hollowed out round of bread, which was filled with soup, stew, or the like. In medieval times, when the meal was finished, the trencher was frequently given to the poor.