By Susan Irwin
University Archivist, firstname.lastname@example.org
Humanities & Fine Arts Librarian, email@example.com
Kings and Queens of England have celebrated their coronations with grand feasts, some only for the nobility and some held for the public at large. In the Archives, we have evidence of two such feasts, separated by 268 years. The oldest is from the coronation of King James II in 1685 and our most recent is from the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.
James II was the younger brother of King Charles II, the Merry Monarch, famous for restoring the theatre and other pleasures of life after many years of Puritan rule by Oliver Cromwell; Cromwell was the man who lead the movement to behead King Charles I, the father of Charles II and James II. When Charles II died without a legitimate child to inherit the crown, his brother James II became his heir.
Following the coronation of King James II and his second wife, Queen Mary of Modena, in Westminster Abbey on Thursday, April 23, 1685 there was a glorious Royal Feast in the adjacent Westminster Hall. The King and Queen sat at the south table facing the long hall, lined with six long tables. At the western tables sat Peers and Peeresses, namely seven Dukes, seven Duchesses, one Marchioness, forty-three Earls, twenty-nine Countesses, five Viscounts, three Viscountesses, thirty-eight Barons, and twenty-two Baronesses. At the eastern tables sat Archbishops, Bishops, Judges, etc.
Click on this link to see the full page chart of seating and of the positions of these dishes on the different tables.
These tables groaned with a total of 1,455 dishes, served both hot and cold, including: pistachio cream, anchovies, stags tongues, partridges, marinated sole, puddings, and much, much more.
Here is a link to the first of several pages that list all of the dishes served at their Majesties and the other tables.
You can see images and read about this feast in our copy of The History of the Coronation of the Most High Most Mighty and Most Excellent Monarch James II… by Francis Sandford and Gregory King, printed in 1687, which is part of our Special Collections. In this book, you will find large, beautiful lithographic images of the coronation ceremony, feast, and fireworks.
There is a wonderful high resolution image of this feast where you can see this entire feast in progress. (Click on the + sign to see all of the details)
The coronation of Queen Elizabeth took place on June 2, 1953 in Westminster Abbey. Food and recipes played a part beyond the coronation feast. The oil used to anoint the new monarchs contains oils of roses, cinnamon, orange, musk and ambergris (produced by sperm whales). Queen Elizabeth II revealed in a documentary interview that some crafty guests hid “strong drink and sandwiches” in their coronets to sustain them through the three-hour long ceremony. New recipes were created as in the case of Coronation Chicken. Created by Constance Spry, the recipe of cold chicken in a curry cream sauce with dressed salad of rice, green peas and mixed herbs was one of the dishes served to foreign guests after the coronation.
Following the coronation ceremony, the Queen and Prince Philip traveled a 7.2 kilometer route from Westminster Abbey to Buckingham Palace. Designed so that the procession could be seen by as many of the people lining the streets as possible, the procession took two hours to complete.
Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation was the first to be televised, with an estimated twenty-seven million people in the U.K. turning in to watch. That did not stop thousands from lining the streets to catch a glimpse of the new Queen, some camping out the night before. Correspondence in the Stella Douglas archival collection (part of Willamette’s Archives) contains information on the availability of packed lunches, not for guests, but for people seated in the stands along the procession route.
Stella, a Salem born artist, lived in London at the time of the coronation and was one of the lucky few to receive a seat voucher from The British Travel and Holidays Association. The letter from the association explained how to exchange the voucher for a “seat ticket,” and included a brochure and order form for packed lunches. Due to the length of the ceremony and procession, refreshments were an important consideration as “…it will be necessary for you to be in your seat by 6.0 a.m. on Coronation Day, and it is unlikely that you be able to leave the special area until around 4.0 p.m.”
Buszards’ Limited supplied the packed lunches, offering three options.
It is not clear if Stella exchanged her voucher for a seat ticket, but she noted the historic event in a letter to her family, “And how the new Queen is loved! Her people love her and have faith in her– How young she is to inherit an empire- my age- and so untroubled by the world, yet so mature in character and devotion to her country.”
On May 6, 2023, King Charles III of England will have his coronation ceremony. On the following day, he and Queen Consort Camilla, have invited their subjects throughout the Commonwealth to celebrate by joining in the Coronation Big Lunch, which “aims to brings neighbours and communities together to celebrate the Coronation and share friendship, food and fun.” The King and Queen have shared a recipe that everyone can make to share at their own Coronation Lunch, namely The Coronation Quiche.
50 Facts About The Queen’s Coronation, https://www.royal.uk/50-facts-about-queens-coronation-0 Accessed 3 May 2023.
Coke, Hope. Peers told they are allowed to wear crimson robes and coronets for King Charles’ Coronation. Tatler. https://www.tatler.com/article/coronation-dress-code-no-coronets-robers-peers Accessed 3 May 2023.
“Francis Sandford (1630-94) – The History of the Coronation of the Most High, Most Mighty, and Most Excellent Monarch, James II … and of His Royal Consort Queen Mary, Solemnized in the Collegiate Church of St Peter … on 23rd April, … 1685 / By…” Accessed May 3, 2023. https://www.rct.uk/collection/1046687/the-history-of-the-coronation-of-the-most-high-most-mighty-and-most-excellent.
Sandford Francis and Gregory King. The History of the Coronation of the Most High Most Mighty and Most Excellent Monarch James II : By the Grace of God King of England Scotland France and Ireland Defender of the Faith &c. and of His Royal Consort Queen Mary : Solemnized in the Collegiate Church of St. Peter in the City of Westminster on Thursday the 23 of April Being the Festival of St. George in the Year of Our Lord 1685 : With an Exact Account of the Several Preparations in Order Thereunto Their Majesties Most Splendid Processions and Their Royal and Magnificent Feast in Westminster-Hall : The Whole Work Illustrated with Sculptures : By His Majesties Especial Command. Printed by T. Newcomb 1687. https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/102827304.
Stella Douglas papers, WUA111, Archives and Special Collections, Mark O. Hatfield Library, Willamette University.
“The Coronation Quiche.” https://www.royal.uk/the-coronation-quiche. Accessed 3 May 2023.
Wight, Colin. “Renaissance Festival Books: View 274 Historical Renaissance Books Online.” Text. The British Library. Accessed May 3, 2023. https://www.bl.uk/treasures/festivalbooks/pageview.aspx?strFest=0251&strPage=200.