The Great Coronation Banquet

December 26, 2016

The Royal Carriage carrying the Imperial Family.

A century has passed since Emperor Karl was crowned King of Hungary on December 30, 1916. The coronation ceremony took place at St. Stephen’s Basilica in Budapest, attended by illustrious guests from throughout Europe.

Usually a coronation is an occasion of mirth and celebration. However, Hungary was reeling from the ongoing First World War, just like the rest of Europe. More than ever, strong leadership was needed.

The coronation procession of Kaiser Karl IV and his family.

Still, the procession from the church to the banquet hall was magnificent. Dignitaries and guests were escorted by regiments in full regalia. This was followed by a pageant of royal carriages, the last carrying the royal family. Emperor Karl, now also King of Hungary, could not know the sad fate of his country as he emerged from his carriage.

The great Coronation Feast would come at the end of centuries of elaborate feasting in Europe. Such an opportunity for royal grandeur would indeed be rare. The meal was brought out by a long train of the highest ranking nobles in Hungary. A look at the menu gives an idea of the painstaking preparations involved:

The newly crowned Kaiser Karl IV of Hungary riding into the middle of the square, warmly cheered by his people.

The ‘Roast of Homage’
Roasted pheasant, dressed in its full plumage
Goose-liver pâté with truffles
Chicken à la reine
Assorted poultry in a salad
Venison pâté with truffles
Quails in jelly
Stuffed roast sirloin of venison
Roasted pork
Spit-roasted duck
Turkey ‘roasted in a medieval manner’
A young roasted rooster
Mountain trout
Fruit jelly from the Tokay region
Assorted pastries, bonbons, fruit, and finally…
A homage basket of confectionery for the crown prince (then four years old)

Trout with a lily-of-the-valley decoration

One by one the nineteen courses were carried out. The magnificent procession of nobles entered the banquet hall and presented each course one by one on golden platters. They approached the king and queen, bowed profoundly, and continued marching out of the dining room.

Nobody ate anything. In stunned silence, the new-crowned king rose to his feet and raised his glass to make a toast: ‘Long live our country.’ After a brief silence, the cry came out: ‘Long live the king!’ Regiments outside fired the guns in salute, and the coronation banquet ended.

Kaiser Karl visiting with wounded soldiers.

In what should have been the greatest feast of his life, the newly-crowned Karl IV of Hungary chose to fast. He himself served the banquet’s food to the suffering soldiers recovering in the adjoining hospital. The new-crowned king’s Coronation Feast-turned-fast served as a symbol of the type of ruler he hoped to be. Though 100 years have passed, this last great coronation banquet gives a touching example of compassion and sacrifice.
By Ben Broussard


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