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From Swans to Coronation Chicken: The Changing Face of Royal Banquets

Food is an essential part of any cultural celebration, and Royal Coronations in Britain are no exception. These grand events are steeped in centuries of tradition and history and have always been celebrated with great pomp and ceremony. As a proud holder of a Royal Warrant, we wanted to take a journey through how these celebrations have changed through the years. Especially the food served.

Historic Coronation Banquets 

The Coronation Banquet at the Palace of Westminster was always an opulent celebration suited for royalty, for over 600 years. From Richard the Lionheart through George IV, the newly crowned monarch would make a dramatic entrance, taking their place at a marble table beneath an elaborately embroidered canopy, accompanied by an array of uniformed royal attendants. The noble visitors' dining tables were decked with priceless jewel-encrusted gold, silver, and pewter tableware that stretched across the entire length of the hall.

There were 31 roast swans served at Henry V's coronation, along with some roast porpoises, peacocks, and antelopes. The uncooked feathers were inserted back into the majority of the roasted birds, which were served with a full plumage. Heads were also reattached. We're not sure that health and safety laws would allow this today!

The lavish celebration had turned into little more than an enormous private dinner party at Buckingham Palace by the time of Queen Victoria's coronation. It was so unimpressive that the then 19-year-old queen simply wrote four lines describing it in her diary: "At eight we dined."

Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation in 1953

Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation was one of the most momentous events in British history, taking place on the 2nd of June 1953, and marking the beginning of a new era for Britain after World War II. The food served at this coronation included many signature dishes, such as Coronation chicken.

It was invented by Constance Spry, a well-known food writer and florist, and her colleague Rosemary Hume, who were tasked with creating a dish that would be suitable for the coronation banquet. They decided to combine cooked chicken with a creamy and lightly spiced sauce made from mayonnaise, curry powder, and other flavourings. The dish was an instant success and has since become a popular staple of British cuisine, often served as a sandwich filling or part of a cold buffet.

Food was becoming more available to individuals of all socioeconomic levels by the time of Queen Elizabeth II's coronation. The coronation feast, on the other hand, had delicacies that would have been deemed lavish and reserved for the affluent. The cuisine for the Coronation Banquet was:

  • Tortue Claire Sandringham (clear turtle soup)
  • Délices des soles Prince Charles (poached sole with a shellfish mousse and a bouillabaisse sauce)
  • Carré d’Agneau à la Windsor, haricots verts au beurre, pommes nouvelles (rack of lamb with buttered green beans and new potatoes)
  • Salade royale, aspêrges, sauce mousseline (crab meat in crispy batter, asparagus, mousseline sauce)
  • Bôites de fraises reine Elizabeth (strawberry and Pimm’s jelly with fresh strawberries)
  • Friandises assorties (assorted sweets and cakes)

If you’re looking to recreate any of this decadent menu, you can order from Donald Russell safe in the knowledge that the Royal households have trusted us to supply them with meat since 1984.

King Charles III’s Coronation in 2023

King Charles III’s coronation is scheduled to take place on the 6th of May 2023. 

Charles' well-earned reputation as a gourmand has grown over the years. He was derided for being an organic farmer before it was fashionable; he established the Mutton Renaissance Campaign, an effort to revive traditional British cooking; and he dropped the French language from his menus in order to highlight the very best of British produce and innovation.

The official Big Lunch is going to be Coronation Quiche. This version of the lunchtime classic is flavoured with spinach, broad beans, and tarragon. You can find the official recipe here. If you'd like to share in enjoying a celebratory quiche but don't want to make your own, you might enjoy our Deep Filled Scottish Smoked Salmon & Crème Fraiche Quiche.

As well as the Coronation Quiche, there are four other official recipes.

  • Ken Hom’s lamb with an Asian-style marinade fuses the distinctive tenderness of British lamb with the rich flavours of Chinese cuisine. Our version is fully marinated and ready to cook. Take a look at our Chef's recommendations for a complete meal featuring it in pride of place.
  • Nadiya Hussain’s yoghurt-topped aubergine – silky smooth aubergine with an added richness from garlic and smoky paprika.
  • Gregg Wallace's prawn tacos with pineapple salsa. A celebration of British seafood along with the most regal of fruit – pineapple.
  • Adam Handling’s strawberry and ginger trifle. Classic British flavours combined with warming ginger for a tasty twist on a traditional pudding. Try our cheesecake version for an indulgent treat.

Overall, the meal for King Charles III's coronation displays the finest of British and international cuisine, with a combination of classic dishes and innovative touches. It will be intriguing to observe how the food changes in the run-up to the coronation, as well as what surprises await visitors. Whatever the food, one thing is certain: it will be a spectacular celebration steeped in tradition and history, much like previous coronations.