“Your Majesty, Dinner is Served” – Part II: European Royal Families, Royal Banquets & Ten Royal Recipes

Written by Pandora’s Box [my old writing alter-ego]
Tuesday, 30 November 2004

This week, we will continue looking at royal culinary preferences but will broaden the focus to include some other royal families, such as the current Danish royals and the Romanovs. We’ll also examine royal banquets which have changed substantially over time, at least in terms of food, if not in terms of protocol. At the end of the column, an addendum will list ten royal recipes for you to try. As always, I hope to hear from any readers who have ventured into the kitchen with the recipe in hand.

THE WINDSORS

The Recent Decades

Dinner at Buckingham Palace, which was such an integral part of last week’s column, only goes up to 1965 but other royal chefs have come forward since that time to provide an inside peek into the British royals’ eating preferences. TV chef Gary Rhodes spoke on a show called “All the Queen’s Cooks” about his time at Buckingham Palace. According to Rhodes and the program,

The Queen apparently favours plain food, such as lamb cutlets or roast beef, with bread-and-butter pudding or ice-cream to follow. All the Queen’s Cooks claims that the Queen dislikes spicy food and tomato pips, which are said to get stuck in her teeth.

Taking afternoon tea – which consists of scones, potted shrimps, thin cucumber sandwiches without the crusts and a special royal blend of tea – is one of the Queen’s favourite pastimes.

The programme says the Queen takes tea strong with a few drops of milk, and, as an aperitif, she likes a dry martini, stirred not shaken, and finished with a twist of lemon.

Rhiannon Edward, “Martinis and cuppas – the Queen’s delights revealed,” The Scotsman (August 3, 2004), at http://news.scotsman.com/topics.cfm?tid=642&id=888352004

The Queen’s eating preferences caused a slight international fuss back in 2000 when she was visiting Rome and the Vatican. As a general rule, the Queen’s household always warns foreign hosts of “the royal likes and dislikes. The requirements – which typically ban mauve flowers, duvets and foreign mineral waters – provide a rare insight into Her Majesty’s tastes.” See, “Right Royal Requirements,” BBC (October 10, 2002) at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/965079.stm

I have no idea why the Queen dislikes mauve flowers or duvets but it’s quite easy to understand her issues with other items. At the time of the Italian visit, the Palace reportedly sent orders that nothing with garlic was to be included on the menu. In fact, the kitchens of Rome’s Quirinale Palace, where the Queen was to stay for two nights, were allegedly “informed that Her Majesty will not tolerate ‘long pastas’ such as spaghetti, ‘messy’ tomato sauces or blackberries and raspberries.” See, “Cooking for the Queen: The unique demands of a royal palate,” http://archives.cnn.com/2000/WORLD/europe/10/10/queens.dinner/

The Italian papers got hold of the request and had a field day:

Il Messaggero reported that “her majesty’s antipathy for ‘boorish’ garlic and onion is well known and detected a symmetry with the rightwing opposition leader, Silvio Berlusconi, who also apparently hates “these plebeian, intrusive breath problems.’ The newspaper’s culinary expert, Giacomo A Dente, also reported that the palace wanted spaghetti and other long pastas kept off the menu -because of the danger of undesirable splashes of sauce- as well as all forms of seafood, strawberries and wild berries: ‘those berries so dear to the majority of the Queen’s subjects’.

See, “Italians feast on royal fear of garlic,” The Guardian, (October 11, 2000) at
http://www.guardian.co.uk/monarchy/story/0,2763,380437,00.html

Other papers followed suit with equally hyperbolic claims. Buckingham Palace was forced to respond with the common-sense statement that Her Majesty was merely considering others: “If you are going to be meeting people you don’t want to be breathing garlic fumes over them.” Id.

There are practical considerations involved as well. The royal entourage likes progress to run smoothly, “free from the disruptions of gastronomic indisposition.” See, “Right Royal Requirements,” supra. Hence the ban on shellfish, rare meat, foreign water and any food that is too spicy or exotic. “Yet the Queen is not averse to trying out new taste sensations. On a visit to China in 1986, she ate slimy sea cucumber – although suitably bland for the royal palate, it is a delicacy that requires a dab hand with chopsticks.” Id.

If the Queen is willing to try a slimy sea cucumber, I think it’s clear that her issues with something as simple as garlic stem from thoughtfulness. As royal watchers and commentators have often noted, the Queen is always sensitive to other people’s situations.

For example, she’s very different from her royal ancestor, Queen Victoria, who ate at lightening fast speed and, as a result, ended meals before some people had really begun. “This was bad luck if you were her dining companion as protocol dictated that the plates for each course be cleared as soon as Her Majesty’s palate was sated. As William Gladstone, the Liberal prime minister, chewed each mouthful 32 times, he often left the royal table famished.” Caroline Davies, “Royal kitchen tours offer a taste of the past,” The Telegraph (30/9/2003) at http://babyurl.com/JtR3uN. In fact, Victoria ate so fast that more than one aristocrat who frequented her court ate dinner ahead of time because, otherwise, there was simply no chance to have enough sustenance to withstand the long hours of ceremony.

In that sense, Victoria was a lot like Napoleon who drove his Imperial Court to distraction with his hasty manners. Napoleon loved to eat with his fingers, but most of all, he loved to eat quickly. Like Queen Victoria, Napoleon had little interest in food and would practically inhale his meals in a few minutes. He was so extreme that Empress Josephine would insist that the royal meal continue long after Napoleon had gulped down his food and left, even though – technically – the meal was supposed to be over once the Emperor finished.

In contrast to both Queen Victoria and Emperor Napoleon, the current Queen is known for playing about with bits of food on her plate for hours so that everyone has a chance to finish. She also prefers small portions, unlike her predecessor and namesake Elizabeth I, “who would use a peacock feather to make herself vomit between courses so as to create space for more food.” See, “Cooking for the Queen: The unique demands of a royal palate,” http://archives.cnn.com/2000/WORLD/europe/10/10/queens.dinner/

In terms of drink, the Queen tends to stick to a glass or two of wine, and mineral water, of which she will only drink Malvern Water (she always takes a supply of it with her whenever she travels). Id. One of her favorite wines seems to be Brunello di Montalcino. See, “Italians feast,” supra, at http://www.guardian.co.uk/monarchy/story/0,2763,380437,00.html. The vineyard produced extremely earthy and smoky wines. If the name means nothing, then think of the richest, earthy, peaty and leathery wines from such comparable varietals like Cote du Rhone, Petit Syrah, Shiraz, or even a powerful, high burn, Zinfandel.

Other than a few select wines, Her Majesty also likes a martini, although it’s unclear if she prefers it made with gin (like the Queen Mother) or vodka. In contrast, Prince Philip prefers a tanker of lager beer or a gin-and-tonic. Dinner at Buckingham Palace, (Ed. Paul Fishman & Fiorella Busoni, Metro Publishing 2003), at p. 31. Neither one seems to be too fond of champagne. Id.

Royal Coronations

The differences between various British monarchs can be seen in the food chosen for their coronation banquets, as well as that served at street parties marking the occasion.

When the Prince Regent ascended the throne as George IV in 1820, the banquet was incredibly elaborate.The new King absolutely adored food and, at this point, was said to weigh more than 23 stone or over 320 pounds. For just one of his banquets as Prince Regent, he had the famous chef Carême serve over a 100 dishes in 36 courses. His coronation banquet was equally extravagant:

The Coronation Banquet for three hundred guests at Westminster Hall was served by a procession of household Officials and Gentlemen Pensioners. Some of the dishes served were: soups including turtle, salmon, turbot, and trout, venison and veal, mutton and beef, braised ham and savoury pies, daubed geese and braised capon, lobster and crayfish, cold roast fowl and cold lamb, potatoes, peas and cauliflower. There were mounted pastries, dishes of jellies and creams, over a thousand side dishes, nearly five hundred sauce boats brimming with lobster sauce, butter sauce and mint. The peers and bishops having had nothing to eat since breakfast turned to their plates with relish. The guest’s wives and children could only look on from the galleries built for the occasion. One peer at least tied a capon in his handkerchief and tossed it up to his famished family. http://www.georgianindex.net/coronation/Coronation-GeorgeIV.html

In total, there were 20 first courses, 22 main courses and 31 desserts. http://www.royal.gov.uk/output/page2227.asp And, of course, the thousand side dishes!

When William IV succeeded George IV to the throne, things changed drastically. The court returned to the simple, very Germanic style of George III. Extravagance was rejected, and so too was fancy French cooking. In fact, Queen Adelaide dismissed all the French chefs and instituted “more homely English cooking. Lord Dudley, a guest of both Kings at the Pavilion, complained that with Queen Adelaide as host ‘you now get cold pâté and hot champagne’.” http://tinyurl.com/69kd6

When Edward VII ascended the throne in 1902, the Boer War had just ended and the country was in the mood to celebrate. More than 450,000 people were fed in the streets on Coronation day, possibly with “Carbonadde Flamande” which was a dish of stewing steak, onions, and beer in a butter sauce. The Coronation Cookbook, (April 24, 2002) BBC, athttp://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/breakfast/1947639.stm

At the coronation banquet, however, it was French food all the way. As we saw last week, Edward VII loved good food and he had a special fondness for sophisticated foreign dishes. At his banquet, the menu consisted of “Jambon D’espagne a la basque (Spanish ham) and Fillet de Truites a la Russe, trout with caviar in a hollandaise sauce.” Id.

When George V ascended the throne, “the Street parties of 1910 were of the ‘cold meat tea’ variety but many of the dishes then are still enjoyed today – boiled bacon, pickled onions, bakewell tarts.” Id. There was also banana jelly, iced buns and blancmange. Id. The one thing all these dishes have in common is that they are simple, basic British fare and, in that sense, they are symbolic of the King’s personal style and preferences.

Just as George V avoided fancy French dishes so too did King George VI. At his coronation banquet in 1937, his love of British fare shines through: rather than Spanish ham or Russian style trout with caviar, there was simple Scottish Salmon, followed by chicken in a rather plain sauce. Id.

The Queen’s Coronation

Queen Elizabeth had two banquets for her coronation but both were very simple. Rationing was still in effect in Britain but, equally important, the Queen liked simple food. Scottish salmon was once again featured on the menu, but the main course was grilled steaks, albeit steaks garnished with quarters of artichoke hearts tossed in butter with cocotte potatoes and slices of truffle. There was also a simple soufflé named after Princess Anne but not much more. Id. There certainly wasn’t the vast number of dishes featured at one of King Edward VII’s average dinners. And the Royal Family was obviously galaxies away from the extravagance of the Prince Regent.

The public or street parties celebrating the Queen’s ascension must have been quite something. According to the Royal Family’s official website, “[t]he Ministry of Food granted 82 applications for people to roast oxen, if they could prove that by tradition, an ox had been roasted at previous Coronations – a welcome concession in a country where the meat ration was two shillings a week.” http://www.royal.gov.uk/output/page2333.asp

Oxen notwithstanding, most people probably ate the now famous Coronation Chicken — chicken with an apricot mayonnaise sauce featuring a hint of curry. The dish is usually attributed to Constance Spry, an English flower arranger and cookery author who also advised the Ministry of Works on floral decorations for the Coronation. “Popular lore has it that Spry hijacked the recipe from its similarly rich’n’spicy royal relation, jubilee chicken, prepared for the silver jubilee of George V in 1935, which mixed the chicken in mayonnaise and curry.” Jim Gilchrist, “Another Thing; Coronation Special,” The Scotsman (2/6/2003) at http://news.scotsman.com/topics.cfm?tid=885&id=612742003

In reality, however, it seems Rosemary Hume of the Cordon Bleu Cooking School in London was behind the recipe which went on to appear in the famous Constance Spry Cookery Book of 1956. Id. It is thought Hume drew on a recipe by 19th-century cookery guru Mrs. de Salis, of chicken with curry powder and apricot butter. Id.

Whomever invented the dish, it has now become an ubiquitous part of the British culinary scene, and can be found everywhere from society weddings to the corner sandwich shop. Id. A copy of very simple recipe can be found at the end of the column, although you might want to consider the words of one commentator: “Numerous upstarts over the years have included almonds, raisins and crème fraîche, while one current version has chicken breasts tossed in Kerala aioli. Others lace it with saffron and the odd subversive red chilli. Upending a jar of salad cream over your fragmented fowl and stirring in curry powder just isn’t on.” Id.

The Queen’s Golden Jubilee

The Queen’s Golden Jubilee celebrations in 2002 were meticulously planned out and the food was no exception. In fact, Her Majesty personally chose the dish that would become known as Golden Jubilee chicken. The recipe was the result of a competition for chefs from all the Royal palaces. “The chefs were challenged to come up with a dish that could be cooked in large quantity, eaten cold with a salad and appeal to as many differing palates as possible. The initial entry of ten was whittled down to a final two, which were tasted personally by The Queen. She chose the dish cooked by Head Chef Lionel Mann as the eventual winner.” http://www.tiscali.co.uk/events/2002/goldenjubilee/features/cchicken_goldenjubilee.html

The Queen’s choice was a dish of cold chicken with a fresh, tangy dressing made from crème fraîche, ginger and lime. A copy of the recipe can be found at the end of the column.

Jubilee Chicken became the centerpiece of the food catered to the public for the concerts at BuckinghamPalace. Each ticket holders was given a hamper which included everything needed for a three-course meal, including a plastic champagne flute. Id. The starter was a smoked salmon wrap. The main course was Chicken Jubilee with a pasta salad. It was followed by strawberries and cream. But there was more.

Each hamper also contained half a bottle of Lanson champagne, a bottle of mineral water, Walkers shortbread, and Duchy Originals biscuits made from organic wheat and oats grown mainly on the Prince of Wales’ Home Farm at Highgrove. Cadbury’s provided squares of chocolate and a miniature book of coronation photos. Id.

THE DUTCH, NORWEGIAN AND DANISH ROYAL FAMILIES

Information on the culinary preferences of other, modern royals families is hard to find. One reason is that the press in many European countries is far less intrusive than the British media. Another reason is that many European monarchs seem to be much more indifferent about what they are served.

For example, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands rarely makes food requests when traveling abroad:

“She tends to keep her likes and dislikes to herself,” says Hans Kamp, of the Royal Netherlands Court, “Although I honestly can’t think of any type of food she doesn’t like. We generally leave it to the country she is visiting to decide what food they are going to serve.”

“Cooking for the Queen,”” supra, at http://archives.cnn.com/2000/WORLD/europe/10/10/queens.dinner/

The same goes for King Harald of Norway. According to a spokesman from the Norwegian embassy, the Norwegian royals “basically … eat what they get.” Id.

Back home, however, it would appear that the King prefers Norwegian dishes with a slight French twist. Take for example, the menu for the banquet before Crown Prince Haakon’s wedding: “The dinner menu had a classic Norwegian theme, and reflected the coming autumn season. An appetizer of trout roulade with ocean crayfish and herbs was followed by the main course – roast filet of veal with forest mushrooms, baby carrots, spinach and sugar peas served with a mille feuille of peppers, squash and chévre. The feast was topped off with a dessert of wild strawberries marinated in white wine syrup and a vanilla-praline parfait.” http://www.aftenposten.no/english/local/article183181.ece

The French influence is probably most pronounced at the Danish court. Queen Margrethe’s consort, Prince Henrik, is French and very knowledgeable about culinary matters. According to the Master of the Royal Household, he’s “got a real knack for food and wine.” http://www.cphpost.dk/get/77882.html Thus, when Crown Prince Frederik married Mary Donaldson earlier this year, it was Prince Henrik who decided what was going to be on the banquet menu. The dishes were Danish in origin but the French influence and style is evident, as the following menu should make clear:

Timbale of Shellfish from the Nordic Seas
Sea Urchin Sauce
*
Roast Venison from the Royal Forests
Rissole Potatoes from Samsø
Peas à la Parisienne
Sauté Mushroom and Morel Sauce
*
Vol-Au-Vent Perfect Union
White Danish Asparagus and Bornholm Chicken with a Sprinkling of Apple Cider
*
White Chocolate Délice
Crown Prince and Crown Princess

http://kongehuset.dk/artikel.php?id=61127

Prince Henrik’s involvement in the Royal Family’s culinary preferences extends beyond just his son’s wedding banquet. Due to his gastronomic expertise, it is said that the Prince Consort, not the Queen, decides what will be served at the family’s dinner table. He is provided with a selection of menus and makes the final determination. Prince Henrik also plays a role in the choice of wines. He owns his own vineyard in the famous Cahors region of France and his wines are featured heavily at royal banquets and the general dinner table.

THE RUSSIAN IMPERIAL FAMILY

One of Catherine the Great’s favorite things to eat was “Sturgeon & Champagne Soup.” There is an amusing story associated with this extremely expensive and elegant dish which required a whole fillet of sturgeon per person.

According to legend, the Empress had planned a visit to one of her lovers, Count Potemkin, at a time when no sturgeon was to be found in all of Moscow. Potemkin was in a panic because he knew of the Empress’ passion for the soup, but he was not one to give up easily. He found a cunning fishmonger who somehow managed to provide him with enough fish for the recipe. But it cost Potemkin dearly. To pay for it, he had to give up a painting which he’d recently purchased for 10,000 rubles. Darra Goldstein, “À la Russe: A Cookbook of Russian Hospitality,” (Random House 1983).

The original recipe may be too expensive for most people to make today but an affordable version is possible if you replace sturgeon with another white fish. For those who are interested, a copy of the recipe can be found at the end of the column.

Catherine the Great’s favorite soup is extremely revealing. Its extravagant sophistication can be seen as a symbol for her entire reign. The royal court under Catherine was extremely sophisticated and French in orientation; money was not an object and appearance was everything. Following Catherine’s lead, every noble family who could afford one had a French chef. Food costs at imperial balls were of no concern, family fortunes would be squandered on a single feast, and tables literally buckled from the weight of their splendor.

Subsequent tsars continued the trend. The royal court was obsessed with following the French style in all matters of fashion, decor and food. It’s not surprising, therefore, that Tsar Alexander I hired Antonin Carême from the Prince Regent. Carême was probably one of the most important master chefs ever to live, the creator of French “haute cuisine,” and a genius who cooked for almost every powerful royal in the 19th century. (See, Pandora article “Food Fit for a King (Literally!),” in the archives, for more on Carême and royal cooking.) When Carême died, the Tsar Alexander I mourned his passing in a way that probably no Tsar has ever done for a servant.

Tsar Nicholas II continued the traditions established by his predecessors, which included serving dishes first created under Catherine the Great. Hundreds of people worked in the royal kitchens. The latter was located in a building entirely separate from the palace, until 1902 when, eventually, an underground tunnel was built to connect the two establishments and to facilitate service. Bob Atchison, “History of Royal Dining,” (hereinafter simply referred to as “History of Royal Dining”) at http://www.alexanderpalace.org/palace/tsartable.html.

The Imperial Table must have been impressive to behold. It was set with silver, gold, porcelain, crystal and huge flower arrangements from the Imperial Greenhouses. The silver dated back to Catherine the Great; the china came from the Imperial Porcelain Factory, was marked at the bottom with a cipher of the year and the name of the current monarch, and was checked for even the smallest imperfection. Those pieces with the minutest chip or flaw were smashed. The waiters were always men who were selected for their height, good looks and breeding.

It was a prestigious position as far as Imperial servants were concerned for it involved daily service upon the person of the Tsar himself. Only the most senior of waiters could be permitted to serve the Tsar and his family and these men were attached permanently to each member of the family. They travelled with them from palace to palace and were not attached to any particular building. The Russian seniority system meant that sometimes the most august waiter was also the oldest. Nicholas suffered in silence with an old waiter he had inherited from his father. The poor man had failing eyesight and Nicholas carefully supported the faithful servant’s arm while he poured the wines for want of mishap.

“History of Royal Dining,” supra, at http://www.alexanderpalace.org/palace/tsartable.html

For the most part, daily meals at the last Romanov court seem to have been much less elaborate or extravagant than those at other royal courts of the same period, notably the British court under Queen Victoria or Edward VII. That’s not to say that they were abbreviated, miserly affairs; they weren’t. It simply means that Queen Victoria and King Edward VII went to unmatched extremes in setting a royal table.

The trend towards simplicity which we saw with the British Royal Family was repeated with the Romanovs. The extravagances of Peter the Great or Catherine the Great had given way to much simpler meals by the time you got to Nicholas II:

At the last Romanov court, meals were served in three to four courses and started immediately. “The Tsar did not request special foods to be served. Ever since childhood he had been taught to accept and eat was placed before him without question. His menus were selected by court officials and the chef who were generally familiar with his tastes. Aleksandra’s meals were prepared and served separately. She was on a special diet established by her doctors and was usually a vegetarian.”
Id.

The royal dinner might have been simple but it was long and there seems to have been an incredible quantity of food. The meal began with hors d’oevres, called zakuski in Russian, which were usually served in the adjoining Portrait Hall, or sometimes in the Small Library. Id. Zakuski were served either buffet style, standing up, or by waiters with rotating trays and were a complete meal in and of themselves. They consisted of many appetizers, including German salads, rare caviars, mushrooms and other dainty delicacies- all washed down with various kinds of vodkas. Id.

After the Zakuski, the real dinner began:

The first course was a soup, generally a rich cream soup with small meat pies. Then followed an intermidiate [sic] course of fish. People who knew Nicholas say he loved oysters, but there is no record of them being served at meals. Perhaps they were part of the zakuski. The fish dish served most often was Dviena sterlet in champagne sauce. Next came a course of chicken in rich sauces followed by another course of either beef, mutton or ham. This course could also be game, such as pheasant, wild goat, duck or partridge.
Id.

Throughout the meal, many different sorts of wines were served. The Tsar preferred Madeira or port with his soup but would switch to wine for subsequent courses. All the wines “were served in special bottles adorned at the winery with the Imperial crest and Tsar’s monogram – or in crystal carafes. The Tsar’s wine cellar was exceptional and the court anticipated the rare occasions when a rare vintage was served.” Id.

After dinner, the Imperial Family withdrew to the Portrait Hall where coffee was served. Tables were piled high with “chocolates, delicate sponge cakes of different sorts and shapes, and candies made in the Imperial confectionery.” Id. Brandy, cognac and liqueurs were also available on adjoining tables. It’s even been said that Coca-Cola made its way into the palace! Id.

When the Tsar left the room, the meal was officially ended:

There was no lingering about and sipping one’s coffee or going back for another serving of torte before leaving. Servants immediately began to remove everything as soon as the Tsar was gone. Enormous amounts of food were prepared and there was usually lots left over. According to tradition whatever was left could be sold by the kitchen staff and the money earned was their own. Crowds sometimes gathered at the palace kitchens awaiting the potential leftovers from the Tsar’s tables. The customers included members of the highest aristocracy.
Id.

The Tsar’s favorite foods were French. According to the historian Robert K. Massie, he enjoyed pig with horseradish, cabbage soup and buck wheat with broiled fish or fruit. Nicholas and Alexandra, (New York 1967).

He is also reported to have loved “Salade Olivier,” or, as it’s more commonly known now, Russian Salad. This dish was said to be his favorite hors d’oevre. It was named after his French chef, Olivier, who escaped Russia when the Revolution took place. He became a successful restauranteur and re-named the salad “ à la Russe” in honour of his late employer. “Based on peas, carrot cubes, potato cubes and mayonnaise and served in virtually every restaurant in Germany and nearly every French bistro and brasserie, ‘Russian salad’ is probably one of the world’s best known side dishes.” Rogov’s Ramblings, “Salade a la Russe,” at http://www.stratsplace.com/rogov/salade_russe.html It was also served at street parties during George V’s coronation. A copy of the recipe can be found in the Addendum to this column, along with recipes for other Romanov favorites.

Until next week, happy cooking and bon appetit

* * *

TEN ROYAL RECIPES

You will find below 10 recipes, ranging from Romanov favorites to the Queen’s Golden Jubilee chicken and the Plum Pudding made for Queen Victoria’s Christmas Dinner in 1899. I’ve reproduced many of the recipes almost exactly as I’ve found them. On occasion, only the American measurement system is used, as opposed to the European metric system. Or vice-versa. Readers who would like to try their hand at cooking can convert the measurements at http://convert.french-property.co.uk/ or http://www.onlineconversion.com/weight_common.htm. If you choose to make one of these dishes, I’d love to know how it turns out and whether you enjoyed it, so don’t hesitate to write to me.

1 – The Queen’s Coronation Chicken

Ingredients:
Chicken – 1 x 2.3 kg (5 lb), poached
Vegetable oil – 1 tbsp
Onion – 1 small, finely chopped
Curry paste – 1 tbsp
Tomato purée – 1 tbsp
Red wine – 100 ml
Bay leaf – 1
Lemon – ½, juice only
Apricot halves – 4, drained, finely chopped
Mayonnaise – 300 ml (½ pint)
Whipping cream – 100 ml (4 fl oz)
Salt and pepper
Watercress – to garnish
Serves 8

Directions:
1.    Skin the chicken and cut into small pieces.
2.    In a small saucepan, heat the oil, add the onion and cook for about 3 minutes, until softened. Add the curry paste, tomato puree, wine, bay leaf and lemon juice. Simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes until well reduced. Strain and leave to cool.
3.    Purée the chopped apricot halves in a blender or food processor or through a sieve. Beat the cooled sauce into the mayonnaise with the apricot puree.
4.    Whip the cream to stiff peaks and fold into the mixture. Season, adding a little extra lemon juice if necessary.
5.    Fold in the chicken pieces, Garnish with watercress and serve.
http://www.tiscali.co.uk/events/2002/goldenjubilee/features/cchicken_jubilee.html

2 – The Queen’s Golden Jubilee Chicken

Ingredients:
4 chicken breast fillets, about 18 oz (500g) in total
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg
2 tbsp olive oil
Bunch flat leaf parsley
1 lime quartered

For marinade:
Half lime, juiced and zest grated
3cm fresh root ginger, peeled and grated
1 clove crushed garlic
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
For dressing:
3fl oz (100ml) creme fraiche
6 tbsp mayonnaise
Half lime, juice and zest grated
2in (5cm) piece fresh root ginger

Directions:
1.    Mix the marinade ingredients together in a shallow dish. Add the chicken and turn to coat thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate for 2-3 hours.
2.    To make dressing, place crème fraîche, mayonnaise, lime juice and zest in a bowl. Peel and grate the ginger, then twist in a piece of muslin, or press through a sieve to extract the juice. Add 2 tsp of the juice to the dressing. Stir, cover and chill to allow the flavours to develop.
3.    Scrape marinade from the chicken and pat dry with kitchen paper. Season the chicken with salt, pepper and nutmeg, and place in a roasting tin. Drizzle over olive oil.
4.    Roast in oven (pre-heated to 190 degrees Celsius/375 degrees Fahrenheit/Gas Mark 5) for 25 minutes, baste occasionally until the chicken is cooked through. Leave to cool completely, then cut into bite-sized pieces.
5.    Combine the chicken and dressing, adjust the seasoning, and refrigerate. Serve with a pasta salad, lime quarters and chopped flat leaf parsley.
http://www.tiscali.co.uk/events/2002/goldenjubilee/features/cchicken_goldenjubilee.html

3 – The Romanov’s Cream of Asparagus Soup
Served to Empress Alix on the celebrations for her Name Day in 1897. The following recipe has been copied verbatim as found:

“Clean asparagus and cut it into small slices; melt butter in a saucepan, put flour and pepper into it. While stirring it pour some chicken broth and wait until it boils. Put asparagus into the broth and leave it on fire for some time, then strain it, run the sediment though a mincing-machine, rub it through a sieve and mix it with the broth, add some cream and warm it on fire.

For 4 persons: 500 grams of fresh, frozen or canned asparagus, 6 table full-spoons of butter, 4 table spoon-fuls of onions cut into small pieces, 2 table spoonfuls of wheat flour, one eighth of freshly ground pepper, 2 small glasses of chicken broth, 2 glasses of 10% cream.” Bob Atchison, ” Alexandra’s Namesday – 1897″, at http://www.alexanderpalace.org/palace/tsartable2.html

4 – Catherine the Great’s “Sturgeon Soup with Champagne”
In Imperial Russia, a whole fillet of sturgeon was placed in each soup bowl and the broth poured over it. Diners sipped the broth and then ate the fish with knife and fork. The recipe below is a more economical version and can be made cheaper still by replacing sturgeon with another white fish.

Ingredients:
3 cups basic Fish stock
1 lb fresh sturgeon, trimmed and cut into cubes
chopped scallions
Lemon slices
1 cup champagne
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
“Place the fish stock and the cut-up sturgeon in a stockpot and bring to a boil. Simmer gently for about 10 minutes, until the fish is cooked. Pour the champagne into the fish soup and just barely heat through. Ladle the soup into individual bowls and garnish each with some thin lemon slices and chopped scallions.”
(Taken from À la Russe: A Cookbook of Russian Hospitality, supra, at 63-64.)

5 – “Mayonnaise de Homard”
This dish was served at the Coronation Banquet for King George VI and the Queen Mother on May 10, 1937. The recipe serves 4. It seems a bit confusing and isn’t explained very well, but it has been copied verbatim from the Royal Family’s official website.

Ingredients:
1.6 kg Lobster
0.14 pt Mayonnaise
1/10 bunch Chives
0.06 pt Vinaigrette
0.4 each Round Lettuce
2 Medium Eggs
0.1 each Cucumber
0.4 each Raddichio Lettuce
Salt and Pepper for seasoning

Directions:
Boil lobster for 20 minutes, cool and shell meat. Marinade in chive vinaigrette, drain and combine with mayonnaise then build on a dish. Garnish with lettuce and cucumber.
http://www.royal.gov.uk/output/page2227.asp

6 – Russian Palace’s Vegetable Borscht
The source for this recipe is Roza Gorenuk, whose grandfather cooked for Tsar Nicholas II and, in fact, made this very dish for him:

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon Vegetable oil
1 and ½ cups of finely chopped onion (essentially,1 large onion)
5 medium beets
½ cup chopped carrot (essentially 1 small carrot)
5 teaspoons Tomato paste
16 cups of chicken stock
2 large potatoes
1 medium cabbage head
1 cup green bell pepper, chopped
3 tablespoons Sugar
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon Salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 Clove garlic; minced
1 teaspoon fresh Dill; chopped

Directions:
1.    Peel and julienne raw beets to yield 4 cups. Peel and cube potatoes to yield 2 1/2 cups. Finely chop cabbage to yield 6 cups.
2.    Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute until browned, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add beets and carrot. Saute, stirring constantly, for 10 minutes. Stir in tomato paste. Remove from heat and set aside.

3.    In a large stock pot, bring chicken stock to a boil over high heat. Add potato and cook for 3 minutes. Add cabbage and continue boiling for 5 minutes.

4.    Add reserved beet-tomato paste mixture, green pepper, sugar, lemon juice, salt and black pepper. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in garlic and dill. Serve hot.

(Recipe taken fromhttp://www.recipeusa.org/Ethnic/Russian/Russian%20Palace%20Borcht%20%2013567.htm)

7 – “Salad Olivier” or “Salade À La Russe

Ingredients:
1/2 kilo roasted chicken meat, cut in small cubes
4 medium boiled potatoes, cooled, peeled and sliced
4 hard boiled eggs, cut in eighths
2 half-sour pickles, sliced thinly
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
salt and pepper
6 – 8 hearts of lettuce
2 tomatoes, cut in wedges
16 green olives
2 Tbsp. capers

Directions:
In a mixing bowl combine the chicken, potatoes, eggs and pickles. Fold in the mayonnaise and sour cream, season to taste and mix gently but well. Serve the salad on a bed of the lettuce hearts and garnished with the tomatoes, olives and capers.
(Taken from Rogov’s Ramblings, “Salade a la Russe,” athttp://www.stratsplace.com/rogov/salade_russe.html.)

8 – The Tsarina’s Cream
It’s unclear if this dish was created for a specific Tsarina and, if so, which one. Darra Goldstein, editor of “Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture” and the author of a Russian cookbook, includes it in her section of classic dishes under the Tsars. By her account, the dish is said to be so “divine” in its flavour that “some people call it pishcha bogov, ‘food of the gods.’” Darra Goldstein, À la Russesupra.

Ingredients:
1 package unflavoured gelatin (1/4 ounce)
¼ cup water
2 cups heavy cream
½ cup + 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
¼ teaspoon almond extract
1 ¼ teaspoons rose water
5 tablespoons Maraschino liqueur
½ cup unsalted, chopped pistachios — or – ½ cup lightly toasted, blanched sliced almonds
Green food colouring

Directions:
1.    Soak the gelatin in the ¼ cup of water, then heat gently until the gelatin dissolves.
2.    Whip the cream just until it begins to form soft peaks. Then beat in the dissolved gelatin, which has cooled somewhat, and the confectioners’ sugar, almond extract, rose water and Maraschino liqueur. Fold in the nuts.
3.    Then add 2-3 drops of green food colouring, to tint the mixture pale green. If, with all the beating and folding, the cream is still not in stiff peaks, give it a few more turns with the whisk.
4.    Turn the mixture into a 1-quart mold or 6 individual molds. Sprinkle some chopped pistachios on the top. Chill for several hours before serving.
(Taken from À la Russe: A Cookbook of Russian Hospitality, supra, at 116.)

9 – Strawberries Romanov
This simple dish was originally created by my beloved Carême. It was originally made for Czar Alexander I using cream and, possibly, meringues. Modern versions often include ice cream and omit the meringues. The following recipe is from Darra Goldstein and seems to be the most historically accurate. For a simpler version, omit the sections dealing with the meringue. If possible, choose medium-size strawberries for this dish instead of the huge ones. If they are very big, you might consider cutting them into pieces. The following recipe serves 4.

Ingredients:
1 pint strawberries, hulled
2 tablespoons sugar
¼ cup Cointreau or Triple Sec [My Note: Grand Marnier is another favorite liqueur used in this recipe ]
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
½ cup sugar
½ cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar

Directions:
1.    Place the strawberries in a bowl and toss them with the 2 tablespoons of sugar. Mix together the liqueur and orange juice. Pour over the berries and leave them to macerate (or soak) for 2 hrs at room temperature.
2.    For the Meringues: Beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until they begin to hold soft peaks. Gradually beat in the ½ cup of sugar, beating until a thick meringue has been formed. Pre-heat the oven to 275 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and grease the foil. With a spoon, make 8 rounds of meringue on the sheet, flattening the centers slightly with the bowl portion of the spoon. Bake for 1 hr, or until lightly browned. Remove to a rack to cool.
3.    To serve the dessert, whip the cream with the confectioners’ sugar. Place a generous portion of soaked strawberries on top of each meringue round. Top with whipped cream.
(Taken from À la Russe: A Cookbook of Russian Hospitalitysupra, at 118.)

Emeril Lagasse’s version:
The famous chef, Emeril Lagasse, has a modern version of the dish that is extremely simple. It’s not “Strawberries à la Romanov” the way the Tsars had it and, strangely, it fails to include the one step that is fundamental in every other version of the recipe: soaking the strawberries in liqueur. The step is important because it infuses the strawberries with the subtle taste of orange liqueur. As a result, every bite of the fruit includes a fusion of tastes. Nonetheless, Emeril’s version is easy to make and, for that reason, may be of interest to readers.

Ingredients:
6 ounces vanilla ice cream, softened
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup sweetened whipped cream
Orange flavored liqueur, like Brandy, Cointreau or Grand Mariner, to taste
2 cups rinsed, hulled strawberries
Mint leaves, for garnish
Shaved chocolate curls, for garnish

Directions:
Mix ice cream, sour cream and whipped cream together and slowly add alcohol to taste, adjusting flavoring to your liking. Divide berries between 2 glasses and spoon cream mixture over. Garnish with mint and chocolate.
http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/recipes/recipe/0,1977,FOOD_9936_14243,00.html

10 – Queen Victoria’s Christmas Plum Pudding

Ingredients for the Plum Pudding:
3/4 lb. raisins
3/4 lb. currants
1/2 lb. candied orange, lemon and citron
1 1/4 lb. chopped beef suet (or shortening)
1 lb. flour (2 cups)
3/4 lb. moist sugar
4 eggs
3 gills of milk (1 1/2 cups)
Grated rind of two lemons
1/2 oz. nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves
1 glass of brandy (1/4 cup)
Pinch of salt

Ingredients for the German Custard Sauce:
4 egg yolks
2 oz. pounded sugar (about 1/4 cup)
1 glass of sherry (about 1/4 cup)
Orange or lemon peel, rubbed on loaf sugar
Very little salt

Directions:
1. Mix the above ingredients thoroughly together in a large basin several hours before the pudding is to be boiled; pour them into a mould spread with butter, which should be tied up in a cloth. The pudding must then be boiled for four hours and a half; when done, dish it up with a German custard sauce over it.

2. German Custard Sauce: Whisk this sharply over a very slow fire, until it assumes the appearance of a light frothy custard.

(Taken from http://www.razzledazzlerecipes.com/christmas-desserts/plum-pudding.htm which cites as a source: “Royal Insight Collection, from Queen Victoria’s Christmas Dinner at Windsor Castle, 1899.”)

-pandorasbox-etoile.co.uk

“Your Majesty, Dinner is Served” – Part I: The British Royal Family, Food & Recipes

Written by Pandora’s Box
Tuesday, 23 November 2004

A little while ago, I was asked for an additional column on royal food. This week’s column will begin a two-part series on precisely that.

Part One will focus on the British royal family’s personal eating preferences, with particular emphasis on the early part of Queen Elizabeth’s reign. In an addendum at the end of the column, you will find six recipes for some dishes enjoyed by the Queen, the Queen Mother, Prince Philip, and Diana, Princess of Wales. Many of the recipes – such as Sandringham Christmas Cake – are perfect for the upcoming holiday season, so make sure you check them out.

Next week, Part Two will continue looking at the Windsors, but will also include some other royal families, with special emphasis upon royal banquets and coronations. It will include ten easy recipes (which can still be used today) from the time of Catherine the Great to the Romanovs.

“Dinner At Buckingham Palace”

It’s impossible to talk about the British royals’ favorite dishes and eating habits without discussing a relatively new book, Dinner at Buckingham Palace, which sheds light on the subject from the time of Queen Victoria to Queen Elizabeth II. SeeDinner at Buckingham Palace (edited and compiled by Paul Fishman, Metro Publishing 2003) (hereinafter referred to as “DBP”).

DBP draws on recipes, photographs and a collection of documents gathered by Charles Oliver, a royal servant who died in 1965. Oliver, whose personal diaries and recollections of the royals are at the heart of the book, stipulated that the information could not be published until after his death. Many years later, an English author and editor, Paul Fishman, discovered Oliver’s diaries and tried to have them published, but he died before he could succeed. Only now has it all come out, in a version edited and compiled by Fishman.

Oliver was in a position to know the personal preferences of generations of British royals. He had grown up in the royal household because his father had been a royal servant during the reign of Queen Victoria. He became close to various monarchs, particularly King George VI. During his many years of service, he amassed a vast collection of royal recipes, as well as numerous banquet menus — many dating back to Queen Victoria’s time. They are all included in this book.

The book reflects the royal family’s preference for simple cooking, without fancy treatments or elaborate sauces. Thus, despite some extravagant French names, many of the dishes are extremely basic and within the ability of the average cook. Several of the recipes are available at the end of this column for any reader who would like to experience some of the royal family’s favorite dishes or desserts. A few of those recipes might come very much in handy in the upcoming holiday season, especially if you’re planning a large Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner.

However, the real value of DBP lies outside the area of cooking. It’s a veritable mine of royal anecdotes, many of which have never been heard. In addition, it includes numerous, never-before published, private photographs of the current Windsors. Many of them show the royals in unguarded, casual and happy poses, including quite a few photos of a small Prince Charles and Princess Anne. I cannot recommend this book strongly enough, so put it on your Christmas list. You won’t regret it.

From Queen Victoria To King George VI

DBP begins with the Victorian era. For breakfast, there were often up to five different courses with such items as: bacon and eggs, bloaters (smoked, salted herring), chickens, chops, cutlets, sausages, steaks, woodcocks (a type of game bird) and much more. A few hours later, it was time for lunch, which was 8 to 10 courses! Dinner was equally large, with numerous dishes served during each course. Id. at xvi. But when there was a royal banquet, then the numbers became truly staggering, as we will see next week in Part Two.

Queen Victoria herself was a frugal eater and showed little interest in food. For breakfast, she ate only an egg, served in a gold eggcup with a golden spoon. However, she believed in having an imperial table commensurate with Britain’s stature in the world. Thus, the dinners were extraordinarily elaborate. They also had an international flavour. For example, she insisted that a dish of curry and rice be served at every lunch. The dish would be proffered by two Indian servants in magnificent uniforms of gold and blue. Id. at xviii.

Meals during Edward VII’s reign were simpler, but not by much:

Dinner always featured a choice of at least two soups, whole salmons and turbots, vast saddles of mutton and sirloins of beef, roast turkeys, several kinds of game such as woodcocks, plovers and snipe, a large array of vegetables, perhaps some deviled herring and cream cheese, an assortment of pasties and enormous Stilton and Cheshire cheeses. The whole was accompanied by a profusion of wines, followed by nuts and preserved fruits, then Madeira, port or sherry.

Id.

Unlike his mother, the King loved to eat. Thus, even when he was spending the evening at the theatre or opera, Edward insisted on a one-hour interval so that he could have his supper in the royal box. Six large hampers were packed, brimming with various cold dishes, which were then served on gold plate brought from the Palace. Id.

Things changed drastically during George V’s reign. One big reason was the outbreak of WWI. Equally important, however, was the influence of Queen Mary. Oliver describes Queen Mary as “one of the greatest connoisseurs of food the palace has known.” Id. at xix. Despite her personal preferences, however, she insisted on changing and simplifying the royal eating habits. She instituted rationing in the Palace far before the nation had been subjected to it. She did not permit more than two courses at breakfast, and required royal cooks to inventively re-fashion all leftovers into new dishes. For example, mutton leftovers would reappear as mock meat cutlets. Id.

George V set an example as well. He prohibited alcohol from being served at the royal table so long as the war lasted. In its place, guests were offered a concoction of sugared water. His simple tastes showed themselves in other ways: he took to drinking a thin soup for Elevenses, preferred mashed potatoes over anything fancy, and seemed to love nothing more than apple dumplings for dessert. Id.

The Current Royal Family

Breakfast
Queen Elizabeth has continued the trend towards simplicity. Take for example her wedding breakfast in 1947 when she was still Princess. Traditionally, a “wedding breakfast” isn’t really a breakfast at all but a type of luncheon. Princess Elizabeth’s consisted of only four courses, and was so basic that it was over in hardly any time. In fact, the celebratory meal for the heir to the throne and future Queen – something you’d expect to be quite extravagant – was over in as little as 20 minutes! Id. at xx.

During the course of her reign, the Queen’s breakfast habits have gone from simple to positively minimalist. During Oliver’s time, Queen Elizabeth enjoyed a breakfast of eggs, accompanied by tea and fresh orange juice. Id. at 2-3. The eggs were always brown eggs which the Queen thought tasted better. She also had a soft spot for sausages and frequently chose to eat that over anything else. Id.

At the present time, however, the Queen merely has whole wheat toast with some light marmalade, and tea. See, “All in a Royal Day,” by an unnamed Evening Press reporter, (May 20, 2002) (hereinafter simply referred to as “All in a Royal Day”), at http://www.thisisyork.co.uk/york/library/YORK_LIBRARY_JUBILEE14.html

Prince Philip has a much heartier meal because he likes a full British breakfast. See, “Right Royal Requirements,” BBC (October 19, 2000), at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/965079.stm. That would presumably include eggs, bacon and toast, but could also include kippers and other dishes as well.

Breakfast is served at 8:30 sharp in the Queen’s private, first floor apartment overlooking the Palace gardens. Half an hour after breakfast is served, the Queen and Prince Philip are entertained by bagpipes. It is the continuation of a tradition started by Queen Victoria and which has continued uninterrupted (with a brief exception of WWII) until this day. In fact, it “is the principal duty of the Queen’s Piper to play every weekday at 9am for about 15 minutes when she is in residence at Buckingham Palace, Windsor, Edinburgh’s Holyroodhouse Palace or Balmoral Castle in the Scottish Highlands. The Queen is very knowledgeable about the pipes and notices the subtleties and any variations in the music.” See, “All in a Royal Day,” supra.

As for the other royals, their tastes vary. The Prince of Wales reportedly has organic muesli with six different kinds of dried fruits, as well as fresh fruit and freshly squeezed orange. He also has organic honey on whole-grain toast. Paul Thompson, “Charles has Six for Breakfast,” in The Sun (2002), reproduced at http://pco.teamhighgrove.com/news1202.htm. The late Diana, Princess of Wales, had an equally health conscious approach to breakfast: muesli or bran flakes, sprinkled with wheatgerm, along with a fruit yoghurt and toast and marmalade. Id.

Prince Charles’ former chef, Graham Newbold, provides some insight into the royal lunch. Newbold claims that, after an afternoon shooting or playing polo, Prince Charles loves a soft-boiled egg with toast soldiers and Vegemite — the Australian version of Marmite. Id.

Diana also preferred a light lunch. During Newbold’s time, her favorite was lobster quiche. Id. According to Darren McGrady, her personal chef in later years, she also “loved sliced foie gras, eggs Suzette, steamed trout, calf’s liver, and lots of fresh pasta,” although she’d often stick to a simple potato with salad. http://www.theroyalchef.com/interview.htm McGrady’s website makes available two healthy recipes that he often made for Diana: Poached Chicken Breasts with a Honey, Ginger and Cilantro Dressing; and Chilled Tomato and Dill Mousse with Lobster Tail. You will find them listed at the end of this column.

There are other fun insights provided by the former royal chefs or servants. Newbold, who spent two years cooking for the Queen before working for Prince Charles, says he also cooked for the royal dogs. Thus, Newbold — a Cordon Bleu-trained chef — allegedly cooked up a fancy meal of rabbit with rice for the corgis, while the less fortunate working gundogs had to “make do” with tripe.Paul Thompson, “Charles has Six for Breakfast,” in The Sun (2002), reproduced at http://pco.teamhighgrove.com/news1202.htm.

When The Prince Does The Cooking

One of the best parts of DBP is Oliver’s discussion of Prince Philip. His intimate, inside stories portray the Prince in a very endearing light and show a very different image of the Queen’s husband than the popular press. The latter loves to present him as cold, haughty, irascible and stiff; Oliver presents him as a relaxed, down-to-earth man who must have been a lot of fun to be around. If you’ll forgive me, I’ll share with you a large excerpt of Oliver’s observations:

The royal kitchens have always experimented with new dishes and, during the present Queen’s reign, this has largely been at the instigation of Prince Philip, who usually returns with alternative recipe suggestions after trips abroad on a state tour or visit.

Yorkshire-born Ronald Aubery, who for many years served as the royal chef, knew that if a new dish didn’t arrive at the royal table exactly as the Prince remembered it, there would be a visit to the kitchen and a searching discussion on exactly what went wrong. It was Prince Philip who insisted that Mr. Aubery go on a course at the Ritz Hotel, Paris, to learn some of the more advanced arts of the French chefs de cuisine. […]

Sometimes the Prince experiments with preparing and cooking dishes he has particularly enjoyed on his travels, but he is also fond of what he terms good, simple cooking – such as a casserole of pigeons, cooked according to a Swedish recipe. His most ambitious dish was a snipe, which, after shooting it at Sandringham, he plucked, cleaned, and prepared himself.

Breakfast and supper snacks are his specialities. Wherever he goes, he insists on his electric glass-covered frying pan being packed so that he can do the cooking. For breakfast, bacon, eggs and sausages are his usual raw materials, though he often cooks kidneys and omelettes. The Prince is also adept at producing quick, light supper snacks, which he and the Queen often enjoy when they have dismissed the servants for the night. Dishes include scrambled eggs and smoked haddock, mushrooms sautéed in butter with bacon, Scotch woodcock with mushrooms, and omelette with bacon.

Dinner at Buckingham Palace, at 62.

Prince Philip’s first love, however, is grilling on the barbeque. When the children were very young, he would take them on camping trips to the moors above Balmoral. The Land Rover would be packed with sleeping bags, basic provisions such as milk, tea, sugar, bread, sausages, eggs and bacon, and his portable barbeque equipment. They would camp in a little stone hut built in the days of Queen Victoria for picnics. Prince Charles and Princess Anne would be sent off to fetch water for the tea and washing, and then Prince Philip would get to work on his barbeque. Id.

He also loved to use it on large picnic parties for the Royal Family and their friends. The Prince would produce a “rapid succession” of sizzling chops, steaks and sausages for not only for the guests but also for the attendant staff. “If there was a nearby stream, the Queen would also insist on doing most of the washing up – much to the dismay of the staff.” Id. at 63.

The Royal Children

Another priceless image we owe to Oliver relates to a very young Prince Charles. The Prince developed a love for the kitchen early on and followed his father’s footsteps into the kitchen. According to Oliver, when Charles was 10 years old, he would regularly visit the chefs to offer his assistance. “Weighing ingredients, and fetching dishes, pots and pans were chores in which he delighted from infancy. He would also give warning when kettles, pots and saucepans were coming to a boil.” Id. at 44.

Hunting out pots and pans to help the chefs wasn’t Charles’ only foray into cooking. He loved to experiment with recipes, “especially ice lollies and even bought a plastic tray and sticks so he could make them himself [.]” Id. at 167. Orange and strawberry were the flavours of choice.

The young royals were extremely fond of chocolate. Their favorite was Kit-Kat bars. When Princess Anne and Prince Charles were very small, their great-grandmother, Queen Mary, was still alive and living at Clarence House. And they could always be assured of getting chocolate treats from her.

Queen Mary had a very sweet tooth and always had a big box of chocolates beside her as she worked on her embroidery. Id. at 168. When the young royals came for a visit, she’d tell them to help themselves. They were delighted to do so because they didn’t have much opportunity to indulge elsewhere. Queen Elizabeth doesn’t eat a lot of sweets or candies, and she didn’t believe in encouraging her children to do so either. As a result, there were few temptations around the royal nursery, which made trips to see Queen Mary all the more fun for the children.

Her Majesty may not be susceptible to chocolates or desserts but that wasn’t always the case. Oliver confides that, when the Queen was very young, she (along with Princess Margaret) loved “crisp chocolate-coated peppermint creams, as well as other chocolate and barley sugar sweets that were kept in a big glass jar on a side table” in the living room. Id. In later years, the Queen turned to fruit to satisfy any cravings for something sweet. Her favorite fruit is grapes, while Prince Charles’ is lychees. Id. at 167.

Occasional sweets notwithstanding, the royal children were raised on very simple, light foods. While they were in the nursery, some favorite dinners were: leek soup and potatoes, followed by fruit and custard. Barley water was always a favorite drink in the royal household and something that the Queen herself enjoyed.

The royal children seemed to have retained a taste for simple fare as they grew older. In the case of Princess Anne, her favorite food as a teenager wasn’t as healthy as some of the nursery dinners she’d enjoyed but it is one of the most popular, basic items in all of British cooking: fish and chips. According to Oliver, Princess Anne discovered and fell in love with this deep fried food when she went away to boarding school, and it was always served to her wrapped in newspaper the traditional way. Id. at 44.

In many ways, Princess Anne’s preference is not surprising. She has always been considered to be one of the most down-to-earth, straight forward of the royals, without fuss or pretension. Having fish and chips – an enduring symbol of simple British life – is completely in tune with her personality.

The Senior Royals

DBP also provides an inside glance into some of the older royals’ preferences. For example, the Queen reportedly loved kippers, smoked haddock and Irish stew. However, neither she nor Prince Philip can stand oysters. She also seems to dislike grapefruit. Id. at 131-132. Going back in time, Edward VII loved herrings coated in oatmeal and then deep-fried. Id. at 102. Apparently, the Queen Mother was also fond of this dish.

Speaking of the Queen Mother, there is a wonderful story about her in Oliver’s book. One New Year’s Eve, when the family was gathered at Sandringham per tradition and custom, they engaged in a little game as midnight approached. The Queen Mother was blindfolded while the royal party presumably hid out of reach. According to Oliver, this is what happened next:

Prepared to kiss the first member of the royal party she caught, she heard a sound behind her that she took to be one of her fellow party guests. In actual fact it was the French windows leading out to the lawn, which had gently opened and shut. At once the Queen Mother groped her way towards the sound, enveloped a shrinking figure in her arms, felt for the face, and kissed him. A shriek of laughter greeted her warm salutation. She plucked off her blindfold only to discover the blushing footman she had just embraced! The Queen Mother laughed louder than anyone, and the footman soon recovered from his embarrassment as he joined them all in a glass punch to toast the New Year.

Id. at 142.

Have I mentioned yet that you simply must buy this wonderful book?

“Everything stops for Tea”

Teatime is probably the Queen’s favorite meals. When her family was young, it was often her sole chance for private, quiet time with them and it became the main family meal. Oliver, supra, at 19.

The ritual is taken very seriously. High tea is served at precisely 5 pm, even when the Queen is abroad. See, BBC’s “Right Royal Requirements,” supra. In addition to the cucumber sandwiches and scones, there is always the Queen’s favorite Dundee cake. In fact, she refuses to be without it, as evidenced by reports that she travels with the cake on foreign trips so that she may have a familiar taste of home. Id.

Scones play an equally big part of the tea. And not just for the Queen. Her Majesty’s beloved corgis also seem to enjoy them. The corgis reportedly “hoover up” any crumbs dropping from the royal table but they are also “treated to the scones with strawberry jam and cream.” See, “All in a Royal Day,” by an unnamed Evening Press reporter, (May 20, 2002) athttp://www.thisisyork.co.uk/york/library/YORK_LIBRARY_JUBILEE14.html

The Queen’s scones must be extraordinary indeed, because U.S. President Eisenhower seems to have begged for the recipe. The late President’s papers include one letter to the Queen in which he wrote:

I am truly grateful for your kindness in sending me the recipe for the scones. I hope we may soon use it.

You will understand my rather woeful ignorance of culinary practices when I tell you that I did not recognize the term “caster” as a type of sugar. But when I called the British Embassy for help, the problem was promptly solved for me.

See, Document #1432; letter dated February 4, 1960, to Elizabeth II, Queen of England, at http://www.eisenhowermemorial.org/presidential-papers/second-term/documents/1432.cfm.

From footnotes added to the letter by the site, it appears that the Queen sent President Eisenhower the recipe in a handwritten note after the President visited her at Balmoral. Id. The Presidential papers do not provide the recipe in question. However, Dinner at Buckingham Palace does include a recipe for scones. Given the timeline, it might be the same one sent by the Queen to President Eisenhower. You can find the recipe at the end of this column.

The “Queen Mother’s Cake”

There is quite a story behind this cake which is incredibly popular and known to the world as “Queen Mother’s Cake.” For both its history and recipe, we owe thanks to Maida Heatter, the renowned, award-winning cook who has been called “the doyenne of desserts” by The New York Times and lavishly praised by Martha Stewart.

“It is a flourless chocolate cake that is nothing like all of the flourless chocolate cakes that are so popular today. It is not as heavy or dense. This has ground almonds and the texture is almost light, although it is rich and moist. It is divine.” Ms. Heatter, at http://www.caderbooks.com/exmcake.html

According to Ms. Heatter, the recipe’s history is as follows:

Jan Smeterlin, the eminent pianist, picked up this recipe on a concert tour in Austria. He loves to cook, and when he baked this to serve to the Queen Mother of England, she asked for the recipe and then served it frequently at her royal parties. If there could be only one cake in the whole world, this would be my choice.

http://colb.yj.com/jordans/jordanrecipe/queen_mothers_cake.htm(Emphasis added.)

Given Ms. Heatter’s credentials, that last comment is high praise indeed. But she’s not the only one with a passion for the cake. Apparently, it is one of the most popular, and most requested, recipe out of all her (many) cookbooks. It is also the cake that she herself makes most often. Information on the recipe is available at the end of this column.

Until next week, happy cooking and bon appetit

* * *

SIX ROYAL RECIPES

I’ve reproduced many of the recipes almost exactly as they’ve been set out. On occasion, only the American measurement system is used, as opposed to the European metric system. Readers who would like to try their hand at cooking can convert the measurement at http://convert.french-property.co.uk/ orhttp://www.onlineconversion.com/weight_common.htm. If you choose to make one of these dishes, I’d love to know how it turns out and whether you enjoyed it, so don’t hesitate to write to me.

1 – The Queen’s Scones

Ingredients:
8 oz. flour
2 oz. margarine
2 oz. sugar
2 oz. currants
1 egg for mixing
Small amount of milk (optional)
1 tsp. of cream of tartar
1/4 tsp. of salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
Egg to glaze

Directions
1. Make a soft dough by mixing the ingredients, including the egg and a little milk if necessary.

2. Place on a lightly floured board and gently roll or pat out the dough to a thickness of about 3/4-in. to 1-in. Using a small plain cutter, cut out the scones and put them in a greased tin, making sure they are well spaced out. Brush them over with a smear of beaten egg and bake in a hot oven (450 F) for about 10 minutes.

(Taken from Dinner at Buckingham Palace.)


2- Cottage Pie de Boeuf Braisé 

(This is a form of Shepherd’s Pie and is a wonderful way to use up leftover roast.)

Ingredients:
1/4 lb. chopped and coarsely minced cold braised beef from which fat and skin have been carefully removed
1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 oz. dripping
1/4 pint good gravy or thin tomato sauce
1 tsp. flour

Ingredients for the Topping:
3/4 lb. freshly boiled potatoes
Butter
Hot milk
Seasoning

Directions:
1. Puree the potatoes until they are light, white and creamy. Add some milk, butter and seasonings to taste. Heat the drippings in a saucepan, then add the chopped onion, cover and allow to soften slowly. Then add the flour, allowing it to colour, then pour on the gravy. Bring to a boil, season and simmer a few minutes. Remove from the heat and mix in the meat. Add more gravy if necessary to ensure meat is well moistened.

2. Put into a pie dish and lay the potatoes on top, leaving a rough surface. Dot with small knobs of butter and bake quickly in a 400 F oven. When brown and crusty remove.
(Taken from Dinner at Buckingham Palace.)

3 – Prince Philip’s Personal Recipe for “Mushrooms à la crème”
(According to Dinner at Buckingham Palace, this is recipe which Prince Philip himself came up with, so the directions given below could be a verbatim account from the Prince himself.)

Ingredients:
1 lb. mushrooms
2 oz. flour
2 oz. butter
2 tablespoons butter
Croutons
Milk [My Note: no quantity specified]
Salt and pepper

Directions:
“Thoroughly clean and dry the mushrooms but don’t peel. [My Note: I presume this means that one shouldn’t remove the stalks.] Slice them into a pan and simmer in butter for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with flour, stir gentle and cook for a further 2 minutes or so. Season, add heated (but not boiled) milk and simmer for a further 3 minutes. Now stir in the cream, immediately reheat well, and serve scattered with croutons of fried bread.”

(Taken from Dinner at Buckingham Palace.)

4 – Chicken Goujons (or Chicken Breasts) with a Honey, Ginger & Cilantro Dressing
This is one of the dishes which Princess Diana enjoyed a lot. The recipe serves 2 people.

Ingredients:
1 pint chicken broth
2 chicken breasts (6 oz. each)
Rind and juice of 1 lemon
4 tbs clear honey
1 tbs sesame seeds
1 bunch watercress
1 radicchio

Ingredients for the Dressing: 
¼ cup onion finely chopped
1 clove garlic crushed
1 tbs soy sauce
4 fl oz. white wine
2 tbs clear honey
1 tbs sesame oil
1 tbs chopped cilantro

Directions:
1. Poach the chicken in the broth for about 6-8 minutes then remove, slice into thin strips and keep warm. Prepare the dressing; reduce the broth to about 4 fl oz. then add the garlic, onion, soy sauce, wine and honey. Bring back to the boil and reduce by half (about 10 minutes) Cool slightly and then whisk in the sesame oil and cilantro. Chill the dressing.
2. Prepare the chicken glaze; heat the lemon rind, juice and honey in a pan until it caramelizes. Remove from the heat and stir in the chicken strips and sesame seeds.
3. Place the salad leaves on a serving plate with the chicken on top and then drizzle the dressing on the salad leaves.

(Darren McGrady’s The Royal Chef, at http://www.theroyalchef.com/recipe5.htm)

5 – Chilled Tomato and Dill Mousse with Lobster Tail 
This is a dish which Diana reportedly loved. Despite the title, the recipe really focuses on the tomato and dill mousse which, thanks to the use of molds, is turned into a conical shape and which is then served alongside a steamed lobster tail. The recipe makes 6 “ramekins” or miniature molds of mousse.

Ingredients:
1 pound tomatoes
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 sachets of gelatine
1 tablespoon tomato puree
1 small bunch dill
3 tablespoon onion
1 lemon
6 steamed lobster tails (about 7 oz. each)
3 bunches watercress
1/4 cup olive oil
1 small bunch chopped chives
salt and pepper

Directions:
1. Blend the tomatoes with 1/4 of the peeled onion until you have a fine pulp. Strain the pulp through a conical strainer and into a large bowl. Lightly fold in the mayonnaise, sour cream, heavy cream and tomato puree into the sieved tomato pulp. Then add a pinch of salt and pepper and the finely chopped dill and fold into the mix.

2. Add the gelatine to a small pan and “sponge” with the juice from half of the lemon. Melt the gelatine over a low heat until it dissolves and then pour it onto the tomato mix, stirring it into the mix as you pour.
Test the mix for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.

3. Pour the mixture into individual ramekins, molds or mini-savarin rings and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Just before serving, run a small knife around the edge of the mold and turn out the mousse onto a plate. Decorate the mousse with the split lobster tails tossed in the olive oil, remaining lemon juice and chopped chives on a bed of watercress.

(Taken from Darren McGrady’s The Royal Chef, at http://www.theroyalchef.com/recipe2.htm)

6 – Sandringham Christmas Cake
A recipe which has a lot of ingredients but seems very simple to make. The result, judging by the picture in DBP, looks incredibly rich and decadent.

Ingredients for the cake: 
1 lb. sultanas
1 lb. currants
10 eggs
1 lb. butter
12 oz. sugar
1 lb. cut and seedless raisins
½ lb. cut peel from either an orange or lemon
1 lb. glazed cherries
1 lb. ground almonds
1 lb. Flour
Nutmeg [My Note: no amount specified]
1 oz. mixed spices [My Note: presumably a form of All Spice but it’s unclear]
1 teaspoon salt
1 glass brandy

Ingredients for the Almond Paste: 
1 and ½ lbs ground almonds
1 and ½ lbs icing or confectioners’ sugar
6 egg whites

Ingredients for the “Royal Icing”: 
(My Note: Royal Icing is a thin, shiny icing that is hard to the touch.)
6 oz. icing or confectioners’ sugar
3 egg whites

Directions:
1. Cream the butter and add it to all the other ingredients listed for the cake. Stir thoroughly. Bake in a “moderate oven” for 2 ½ hrs. [My Note: other parts of the book give more specific references to what constitutes a “moderate” oven. The heat is variously listed as being 350 F/ Gas 4 or 375 F/Gas 5.]

2. To make the almond paste, mix 1 and ½ lbs finely ground almonds, 1 and ½ lbs. icing or confectioner’s sugar, and 6 egg whites. [My Note: Mix extremely well until it becomes a fine, creamy paste.]

3. To make the Royal Icing, vigorously beat 6 oz. of confectioners’ sugar with 3 egg whites.

3. When the cake is cold, cover with the almond paste. Over that, cover with the royal icing. Leave the cake to set for a day or two in a cool, dry place.

(Taken from Dinner at Buckingham Palace.)

7 – “Queen Mother’s Cake”
The recipe is far too long to copy here but it has been reproduced on numerous places on the internet. The best version is Ms. Heatter’s updated one which permits the use of a food processor. You can find it at http://www.caderbooks.com/exmcake.html

The Chrysanthemum Throne – Part IV: The Princess and the “Grey Men” [2004]

Written by Pandora’s Box [my old writing alter-ego]
Tuesday, 12 October 2004

Life changed almost overnight for Japan’s new Crown Princess. A rising young star in Japan’s diplomatic corps, Masako gave up her career when she married Prince Naruhito. She did not, however, give up any of her hopes. Since childhood, she’d dreamt of being a diplomat and working in the international arena. Her marriage and her new role wouldn’t change that, or so she thought.

Masako took to heart the Prince’s pledge to protect her “forever with all his might” and thought his protection would let her become a sort of “royal envoy.” She thought she’d be permitted to travel abroad to promote international goodwill and improve ties between Japan and other nations. In fact, as the Crown Prince himself noted, she considered such trips as being crucial to her role as a member of the Imperial Family. She also believed –quite logically — that her training, background and education would make her an ideal candidate to serve as a roving, royal ambassador.

Unfortunately, nothing could have been further from the IHA’s plans and expectations for her. Leaks from the palace revealed that the IHA had rebuked her “for expressing her opinions and for even having the temerity to walk in front of the prince on one early official engagement.” http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/international.cfm?id=553232004

“In another telling tale, at an official dinner she was seated between then-presidents Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin and chatted in fluent English and Russian with both.” (Lesley Downer, The Tale of Masako, excerpted at http://www.ghatravel.com/html/masako.html) Instead of seeing her as brilliant, she got in trouble for her “indiscretion.” Id. According to one royal watcher, “[t]he Royal Family are not ambassadors. She doesn’t need to be able to speak English, she has interpreters for that. Her job is to smile.” Id.

Her job was also to breed. Preferably profusely, and preferably just boys. Since 1965, every child born into the Imperial Family has been a girl. And only a boy may inherit the throne. In the old days, Japan’s male-only succession rule wasn’t a problem because the Emperor could have concubines, thus increasing the chances for a male heir. The system was abandoned in 1947, presumably under the influence of American policy planners who reformed the Imperial House. While abolishing the concubine system, the policy planners kept the male-only succession rule codified in the 1889 Imperial Household Law and made it a formal part of the new 1946 Constitution.

Thus, under the terms set forth in Article 3, only Emperor Akihito’s two sons — 44-year-old Naruhito and his brother, Prince Akishino, 38 — are in line to succeed before the throne reverts to an elderly uncle and cousins who are likely to die before the two princes. Even without the problem of their age, “for the succession to move sideways, for either of these to become emperor, would be unthinkable to the Japanese people.  It would spark a major succession crisis and might even bring about the end of the imperial dynasty.” Id.

If Masako’s “job” was to produce a male heir, then, by the IHA’s standards, she wasn’t doing it very well. She didn’t become pregnant once throughout the first 6 years of her marriage. Her difficulties must have been difficult enough to bear on an emotional and personal level but the humiliation she suffered at the hands of those around her must have made things unbearable:

According to well-placed palace insiders, every month since her marriage the princess has been summoned to the imperial presence.  Using the politest and most formal of language, the emperor enquires as to whether she has had a period that month.  Each time she has had to lower her head in shame and confess that, sadly, she has failed yet again to conceive a child. They also point out that she has effectively been grounded until she does her duty and produces an heir.

Id.

Finally, in December 1999, the Palace announced with much relief that Masako had become pregnant. Unfortunately, a few weeks into her pregnancy, Masako suffered a miscarriage. Soon after that, Masako reportedly began fertility treatments. She became pregnant and, in 2001, gave birth to Princess Aiko.

Japan went wild; the IHA did not. Quite simply, Aiko was not a boy. So, the pressure grew on Crown Princess Masako to have another child. However, the prospects did not look good. Masako was almost 40, an age when it becomes much harder for a woman to become pregnant. She also had a past miscarriage in her history and 11 years of marriage had yielded only one child. The IHA didn’t care; it wanted Masako to keep trying for a boy and it wanted her to do so at once. In 2003, the head of the Agency, Toshio Yuasa, turned up the pressure by announcing his views publicly: “Frankly speaking, as grand steward of the Imperial Household, I want them to have another child.”

However, Yuasa was not resting all his hopes on Masako. In December 2003, he went so far as to state the Crown Prince’s younger brother, Fumihito, and his wife, Kiko, should try to have a son, in addition to the two daughters they already have. http://babyurl.com/1sV449 Prince Fumihito treated this arrogant demand with all the respect it deserved; he ignored it.

Unfortunately, it was the last straw for Masako. Just a few weeks later, she broke out with shingles, an agonizing ailment where the nerves become infected and large blister-like eruptions explode all over the skin. The condition is brought on by stress.

Crown Princess Masako had to be hospitalized for a month and, upon her release, announced that she was giving up all public duties due to “accumulated exhaustion, mental and physical.” With that, she vanished from the public eye.

For the next five months, there was little news about the Princess. Then, on May 10, 2004, Crown Prince Naruhito held a press conference concerning his upcoming trip to Europe. Press conferences by members of the Imperial Family are not a frequent event so the media gathered in full force. Nonetheless, no-one expected the Prince to discuss anything significant. Undoubtedly, they thought the conference was called to discuss the Prince’s schedule and his plans to attend the upcoming royal weddings in Denmark and Spain. What happened next was therefore all the more shocking.

The Crown Prince opened the press conference by saying that Princess Masako was not going to accompany him on his trip as intended; then, he went on the attack. His face flushed with anger and his facial muscles tightly clenched, the normally circumspect Prince said that Princess Masako had become ill and that she’d “completely exhausted herself” in trying to adapt to life in the imperial family. He added that Masako had hoped to use her experience as a diplomat to promote exchanges with other royal families but that the royal couple had not been allowed to travel overseas for several years after their marriage. He went on to say that there were moves to deny Masako her career as a diplomat and her personality. He concluded by saying that he felt as though he were “wrenching” himself away as he departed and that he hoped “from his heart” that she would be able to join him on future trips.

By Western standards, the Crown Prince’s comments may have seemed mild, if not insignificant; by Japanese standards, however, they were hugely significant. I’d even go so far as to say that it was, to the Japanese, what Diana’s Panorama interview was to the British: a shocking bombshell. In fact, a former chamberlain to the Crown Prince described the remarks as the equivalent to a declaration of war.

There are several reasons why Prince Naruhito’s comments caused such furor. The most obvious reason is that the Prince seemed to be attacking the oppressive and powerful Imperial Household Agency (“IHA”). The IHA has sole responsibility for determining the number of trips which Japanese royals may take, domestically or abroad. Since their marriage in 1993, the IHA has permitted the Crown Prince and Princess to travel overseas only five times, a sharp contrast to the 17 trips undertaken by Prince Fumihito and Princess Kiko, or Princess Sayako’s 10 during the same period. http://babyurl.com/JExTfG Thus, the Prince’s statement about overseas trips was merely an indirect way of pointing to the IHA, without actually naming names. The issue of trips was also a way of symbolizing the overall restraints placed on Masako by the Agency, restraints which had turned her into a virtual prisoner within the palace walls.

Another reason why the Prince’s statements were so significant is because they broke every rule established by the IHA or inherent in Japanese culture. Let’s take the IHA first. As shown in Part I, the IHA has strict, rigid rules regarding press conferences by the Imperial Family. It is exceedingly unusual — if not unheard of– for one of the Japanese royals to call a press conference without first receiving permission from the IHA. In fact, they rarely make any public remarks whatsoever without the Agency’s prior consent. They certainly don’t make unapproved remarks regarding their own life; such statements usually come from the IHA which prefers to limit the announcements to the most impersonal of descriptions. And, at no point does the Imperial Family make unvetted statements about such personal matters as deep emotional “anguish” or the suppression of one’s personality.

Such things are not only a departure from IHA rules but they are also a break from Japanese culture as a whole. Japan is a world where obliqueness is the rule and emotions must be kept private. The concept of “loss of face” is still a powerful factor in business and politics, and one risks “losing face” by being emotional or too candid. In this world, you do not publicly discuss “emotions,” let alone something as extreme as “anguish;” you definitely don’t discuss such private matters if you’re a member of the Imperial Family. For Naruhito to have flouted all normal protocol, gone behind the IHA’s back and to have spoken so frankly to the media about private matters was therefore indicative of how serious and desperate things had become for Masako.

Finally, the Prince’s statements were significant because he was essentially making a public appeal for help. As a Japanese professor of communications has explained, “[t]he message was ‘help us’. He was talking about the princess and the whole imperial family and the appeal was as a human being, not as a prince. It would not be an exaggeration to say that it is crisis time inside the agency as this appeal has to be the most shocking comment from the imperial family since the end of the Second World War.” http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/international.cfm?id=553232004

The public reacted quickly. Within hours of the Crown Prince’s press conference, emails deluged the IHA website expressing support for the Princess and, often, expressing huge criticism towards the Agency. After just two days, there were close to 800 emails; by the end of the controversy, those emails were said to number in the thousands.

The IHA was clearly rattled by the Prince’s statements and the public’s reaction. Going on the defensive for the first time, the IHA made a public statement just days after the Crown Prince’s statement. Grand Master Hideki Hayashida, the IHA official in charge of the prince’s household, said the IHA would look into the situation and try to improve things in the future.

Then, the head of the entire IHA, Grand Steward Toshio Yuasa, stepped into the fray. Yuasa claimed that he didn’t know what was meant by moves to deny Princess Masako her character and personality, something I find exceedingly hard to believe. For one thing, Yuasa was in charge of the IHA in 2002 when the Princess revealed how incredibly hard it had been to adjust to her new life. Yuasa not only was aware of the Princess’ feelings, he actually told a news conference, “I never realized that the princess felt so strongly about it.”http://www.asahi.com/english/nation/TKY200405180221.html

The Grand Steward nonetheless pretended he had no idea of what the Crown Prince was talking about. He said he would try to meet with the Crown Prince upon his return in order to discover the meaning but he added – rather ominously in my opinion – “[i]f those comments were directed at the agency, we have to think precisely about the contents of those comments.” Yuasa acknowledged that the Emperor and Empress had voiced their concerns about the Princess’ state but concluded that it would be difficult to plan for Masako’s treatment because her problems were “not physical.” Id.

The Grand Steward’s comments are exceedingly revealing in my opinion, not only because of his position but also because of the nature of the IHA as a whole. As noted earlier, the Japanese culture fosters a coded form of communication and that’s especially true of political figures and bureaucratic agencies. The IHA is extremely conservative and is not prone to making careless, unscripted statements. To the contrary, they carefully and deliberately examine all possible interpretations before proceeding to comment on something as important as the Imperial Family.Even then, the IHA takes great pains not to discuss anything beyond such basic information as the “who, what, when” aspects of a story; it certainly doesn’t broadcast intimate, personal details regarding the Imperial Family. For example, when the late Emperor Hirohito was dying of pancreatic cancer, it merely claimed that he had a stomach condition.

All of a sudden, the head of this same agency bluntly and explicitly announces that Masako’s problems are not physical in nature. And if something isn’t physical, then the obvious conclusion is that it’s mental. For the Grand Steward to suddenly imply that the Crown Princess is suffering from mental problems is obviously no small matter. It’s also a significant turn around from the IHA’s normally secretive discussions about the royals. The reason lies in the Grand Steward’s other significant statement: “‘If [the Prince’s] comments were directed at the agency, we have to think precisely about the contents of those comments.”

When you read those two statements together – and put them in the context of the IHA’s power, its normally secretive nature, its preference for avoiding any details about the royals’ personal lives, the coded language of Japanese bureaucrats, and the fact that just days before the normally subservient royals had launched a rare attack upon the Agency – then the conclusion is unavoidable: the Grand Steward was making a veiled threat. Quite simply, back down or we will get really nasty towards Masako.

My interpretation might seem over-reaching but the Crown Prince apparently came to the same conclusions. The very next day, he issued a statement expressly declared that his remarks were in no way directed to the present leadership of the IHA or Yuasa. He went so far as to say that he was not talking about anything which had happened since April 2001 when the Grand Steward, the former vice Minister for Home Affairs, had been named to his post as head of the IHA. Soon thereafter, the previously “concerned” Emperor and Empress demanded that their son explain himself to the IHA. He did so, almost immediately upon his return from his overseas trip. Although the media had hoped for another press conference with the Crown Prince, one where he’d give his explanation publicly, the IHA was not going to risk another uncontrolled situation with the rebellious prince. Instead, it imperiously announced that the Grand Steward would meet with him soon “and then announce what he was referring to.”  http://www.japantoday.com/e/?content=news&cat=1&id=299693

Soon thereafter, the Prince withdrew his attacks almost altogether. In a statement released by the IHA, Naruhito stated that he’d merely wanted the public to understand the current situation. While he reiterated Masako’s difficulty in adjusting to life within the Imperial Family, he refused to point fingers at anyone in particular: “I don’t think it would be beneficial to specify who was behind such moves and so I want to refrain from elaborating on details here.” (See http://tinyurl.com/57dkl for text of the Crown Prince’s comments.) He went on to state his determination to see conditions around Masako improve, not only for her to regain her health but also, so that she could fully utilize her career and reflect a new era. The latter comments were probably a subtle warning to the IHA that he was determined to see them loosen their grip on the Princess.

With that, the Agency clamped down on all further information about the couple. The one exception was its announcement in July that Masako was suffering from “adjustment disorder,” a term which essentially means culture shock. In Japan, the condition is commonly associated with children who grow up abroad but experience shock at the rigidity of Japanese culture when they return home. http://babyurl.com/0IVIFg The rest of the world, however, properly interpreted Masako’s condition as depression, an interpretation borne out by the IHA’s admission that she was receiving psychotherapy and prescription medication. Id.Presumably, conditions had deteriorated to such a point that the IHA could no longer hide the situation.

Or was there a more nefarious reason for the IHA’s sudden chattiness? The same month as the IHA made its unusual announcement, suggestions of divorce were “leaked” from the IHA to the Japanese press. Hello! magazine described the situation as follows:

Longtime royal watcher Toshiaki Kawahara claimed that a palace source had suggested to him that Prince Naruhito should divorce the commoner-turned-princess. “Among people connected to the royal family there are some who have told me their opinion that Crown Princess Masako may not be appropriate as a future empress,” royal watcher Toshiyaki Kawahada is quoted as saying. “If this illness goes on for the next five or ten years, public criticism could arise,” continues the comment, “so before then, these people suggest, it would be better for the crown prince to divorce.”

http://www.hellomagazine.com/royalty/2004/07/19/japanroyals/

If the IHA was hoping for a divorce, they must have thought that an announcement about Masako’s mental condition — replete with talk of pills and doctors — could only help their cause. After all, Japan is not as open or progressive as some Western countries in its social attitudes; if mental illnesses continue to carry a social stigma in the West, how much more so in conservative Japan? Perhaps the IHA was hoping that the impression of a mentally disturbed woman close to the throne would shift public sentiment against her. Or perhaps they didn’t care about public sentiment and were trying to send a message to the Crown Prince.

Either way, I firmly believe that the IHA intentionally tried to create the impression of a mentally disturbed woman in order to strengthen their case against the Princess. What I don’t believe is that the IHA was willing to wait 5 or 10 years before something drastic happened. In fact, they probably thought they had no time to lose because, earlier this year, the Emperor was diagnosed with prostate cancer. The law prohibits an emperor from divorcing his wife; it does not, however, prevent a crown prince from doing so. http://tinyurl.com/3vj85 If the Emperor dies before the Crown Prince divorces, then the possibility of divorce (and thus, remarriage) is gone forever.

The IHA’s hopes soundly ignores the basic laws of genetics. The gender of a child is determined by the man, not the woman. Thus, the Crown Prince could have a hundred wives but, if his sperm only carries the X chromosome, then all his children would be female.

Even if remarriage increased the odds for a possible male heir, the fact remains that divorce flies in the face of imperial tradition. There has been only one case of divorce in the entire history of the Imperial Family and that was just a minor relative of the Emperor, Prince Kitashirakawa, who obtained a divorce over a hundred years ago. http://tinyurl.com/3vj85

If no heir to the Chrysanthemum Throne has gotten a divorce in over 2,500 years, I doubt things are going to change now. Not with this Prince. The IHA may be powerful but the prince is simply too much in love with his wife to bow down to bureaucratic pressure and discard her like a soiled tissue.

Furthermore, the Crown Princess herself is unlikely to agree to a divorce. The simple reason is that Masako probably wouldn’t be given much access to Princess Aiko. If Masako had to receive IHA permission before seeing her parents (and, even then, it was infrequent), it’s unlikely that the IHA would permit her to have regular visits with her daughter. And it’s almost certain that the IHA would never permit Masako to have sole custody, even if she agreed to stay in the country.

There is a solution to the entire mess and, at first glance, it seems like an easy one. The answer is to revise the Constitution to permit Princess Aiko to rule in her own right. The government is already looking into that possibility. A parliamentary committee is expected to report next year on the succession law and its Chairman has said that the group is probably going to recommend a female Empress. Another member of the panel believes there is sufficient support in the parliament to act on the proposal and amend the Constitution.

Unfortunately, like most things concerning the Imperial Family, it’s not that easy. For one thing, gender equality is deeply troubling to the influential rightists who really control the country. http://tinyurl.com/6woem The conservative Shukan Bunshun, a leading weekly news magazine, quoted imperial household watchers as saying a gender-blind accession law would pose a risk to the continuation of the monarchy. It quoted one unnamed source as saying: “When an empress has to marry, the choice of a husband becomes too delicate a problem. As a male, his influence on the imperial line can be too powerful and thus pose a challenge to the hereditary importance of the lineage.” Id. In other words, a woman can’t be trusted to be strong, independent or rational.

Medieval and misogynistic perceptions about women aside, there are also some very serious — and very real — practical problems:

For example, women in the imperial family currently cease to be royals upon marriage, thus keeping the family small. But if the law is changed to give imperial daughters equal status, there would be rapid growth in the number of imperial houses, each entitled to official residences and stipends. The tax burden would balloon. The problem that causes the most concern is the distant but inevitable need to find a suitable consort for an Empress Aiko. The difficulties are likely to surpass even those faced by European royals. For one thing, Japan has no titled aristocracy to provide a pool of candidates. Also, a husband would have to be strictly apolitical and uncontroversial to fit the imperial role. A foreign royal might be the ideal choice, but Japan is as yet unlikely to accept the idea of a mixed-blood monarch. [Yet, without] a royal son, the only options would be to re-ennoble old branches of the family to make them eligible to succeed or for the family to adopt a distant cousin. Such solutions are thought to be unacceptable to the public and so controversial that ultraconservatives who might favor them do not air them.
(Colin Joyce, No Male Heir Is Apparent, So Japan Shifting, Los Angeles Times, May 28, 2004.)

Ultimately, none of these factors are as troubling for the IHA as the possibility that discussions regarding the future of the monarchy will lead people to question why it should exist in the first place. Constitutional changes to permit a female empress may thus trigger dangerous public debate about the need for a monarchy, particularly this monarchy which has few duties and even less power. And if one is to change the Constitution, why not do so to completely eradicate the Imperial Family? That line of reasoning may be the very thing that the IHA fears most.

The IHA’s fear is not completely irrational. “According to a 2003 book, ‘Iyashi no Nationalism (Healing Nationalism),’ young people who think of themselves as ‘conservative’ have little interest in the Imperial family. They believe in Japan asserting itself more boldly, but don’t see the Emperor as having much to do with it.” http://babyurl.com/bwMEWs

Given the large financial cost of maintaining the IHA, the IHA may also be concerned about losing its job and the reason for its very existence.Given Japan’s long financial slump, 16 billion yen is 16 billion that could be spent on other areas. Even if the Imperial Family receives only a minute fraction of that amount, it’s still a lot of money in the eyes of those who see no serious benefit in having a monarchy.

If the royals’ duties were substantial or if they brought in considerable tourist revenues like the British royals, then perhaps their existence would not seem to be so fragile. As it stands, however, they seem to have no significant purpose or role, particularly in “modern” Japan. In fact, after the war, there had been numerous calls for the abolition of the monarchy.

Thus, the “breed or die” panic emanating from the IHA has its roots in a very real threat, the deliberate end of the monarchy as a whole. Seen in that light, the IHA’s approach towards Princess Masako and the succession are quite logical. Twisted and callous, but inherently logical. After all, the IHA believes it has been entrusted with the protection of a 2,500 year monarchy, a duty which it does not take lightly, no matter how many victims it leaves in its wake.

What the future holds for the Crown Princess and her family is anybody’s guess. Given Masako’s incredible popularity with the people, perhaps conservatives will risk changing the monarchy. Then again, reform and systemic change are not a big part of Japanese politics, especially when the Imperial Family is involved. For Masako’s sake, I hope I’m proven wrong.

–  pandorasbox-etoile.co.uk

The Chrysanthemum Throne – Part III: Post-War Japan & a Royal Love Story [2004]

Written by Pandora’s Box [my old writing alter-ego]
Tuesday, 05 October 2004

As shown in Part I, one of the greatest beneficiaries of the postwar changes was the Imperial Household Agency (“IHA”). Despite a reduction in size, it was given almost complete control over the Imperial Family and a huge budget to support its power. However, there seems to be little to no evidence regarding the Agency itself, in such areas as its structure and membership, or its attitude towards the Emperor’s loss of divinity. This extremely secretive agency loves living in the shadows and reportedly responds to most direct questions regarding its wards, the Imperial Family, or about itself with a cold, final “no comment.”

Yet, one can glean a lot about the IHA by studying the political institutions and events around it because a few things can’t be hidden, even by the IHA. For one thing, the IHA is closely intertwined with the political powerhouse and ruling party of the past 50 years, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), a party which has been described as being neither Liberal nor Democratic. For another thing, the IHA’s political attitudes can be inferred by closely studying Japan’s political history since the end of WWII, since many of the groups with which the IHA is involved, whether political or bureaucratic, have an almost unbroken connection to the prewar, traditional conservatism.

The years after the end of the war would have led many a disinterested observer to think that Japan’s old political system and traditions had suffered a severe setback. They had not. In many ways, things continued on just as they had before. For much of the 1940s and part of the 50s, the Emperor was regarded with the same sort of reverence as he had been before the war. In the immediate postwar years, his tours of the country — made ostensibly to view damaged areas — were more like victory parades. In fact, the huge crowds almost trampled upon officials from the Imperial Household and the police in their desire to get close just to the Emperor’s car. The banned “rising sun” flag was flown from the rooftops and thousands upon thousands of people literally cheered the Emperor wherever he went. By the end of the 1950s, that incredible enthusiasm lingered mostly among the older generation, while the rest of Japan regarded the Emperor with increasing disdain and indifference.

Not so the Japanese government, a government that was increasingly composed of conservative groups with ties to prewar institutions. For example, in 1952, the Americans released 892 war criminals who had never made it to trial and many of them returned to power in the government. Some of them rose swiftly to the highest positions of power in the postwar government. Links to Japan’s prewar political system didn’t stop there. Almost the entire civil service – a group from which the IHA drew (and continues to draw) a portion of its members – was the same as before the war. In fact, there “was considerable continuity–in institutions, operating style, and personnel– between the civil service before and after the occupation, partly because MacArthur’s staff ruled indirectly and depended largely on the cooperation of civil servants.”http://reference.allrefer.com/country-guide-study/japan/japan234.html Thus, the American policy planners either failed to see or else conveniently minimized the civil service’s role in Japan’s militarism, something which would benefit the conservatives in subsequent decades.

The government continued to treat the Emperor as it had before the war, and for much of the same reasons too. Throughout the 1950s, conservative groups tried repeatedly to amend the new Constitution to explicitly name the Emperor as head of state. “Their aim was not to revive the prewar or wartime “emperor system.” Neither was it to educate future generations in the old imperial-nation view of history rooted in mythology. Rather, conservatives sought to bolster the emperor’s authority so they could use it for their own purposes.” (Herbert P. Bix, Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan, Harper Collins 2000, at pp. 654-655). Although they failed, their efforts were significant in showing the institutional stubbornness that marks Japan’s political system.

Attempts to change Japan’s Constitution were not the only ways in which the political elite rejected the new changes. Under the new Constitution, the Emperor was to have no role whatsoever in political matters; he certainly was not to be advised of the latest developments throughout the country and he was definitely not expected to give any advice to political officials. Yet, throughout the 1950s, numerous Cabinet ministers, along with the head of the Metropolitan police and the Governor of Tokyo, met secretly with the Emperor to give him political briefings on the state of the government and country.

Clearly, the almost unreformed imperial system made it hard for the old-school elite to shake traditional views, particularly when it came to the role of the Emperor. For the same reason, the government looked the other way while Emperor Hirohito made official visits to Yasukuni, the main Shinto shrine which had been set up as a memorial to the “heroic” war dead and was also the burial place for many individuals classified as “war criminals.” The government upheld the prewar conservative ideology in other ways too. For example, it ensured that all school textbooks had a whitewashed version of Japan’s actions in WWII, as well as the Emperor’s involvement. It tried, less successfully, to get schools to display the banned “Rising Sun” flag and to bring back the nationalistic pledge of allegiance. And it didn’t give up until it achieved its goals, even it if took until 1999.

Japan’s ultra-conservative approach to politics can be explained by the fact that only one party has run the country for the past 50 years: the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). A 2001 article in the Guardian described it as follows:

The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is the most successful money- and vote-gathering political machine in the postwar world. As unyielding as any of the cold war communist regimes, it is neither economically liberal nor politically democratic, but has ruled for all but one of the past 46 years. Inside the party, a Byzantine factional system has ensured that power is exercised behind the scenes by a handful of “shadow shoguns”. Prime ministers have been mostly puppets, elderly time-servers who give a higher priority to loyalty, secrecy and consensus than to principle, debate and leadership.

The LDP is usually described as a conservative party; for most of the past 46 years, it has been almost the antithesis of a democratic organisation. Constituencies are gerrymandered, kickbacks from public works are channelled back to the party through yakuza gangsters and key policy decisions are made by party elders behind closed doors.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/japan/story/0,7369,546140,00.html

If the LDP seems a lot like the IHA in some ways, it’s because the two groups are very closely knit. The IHA deals almost daily with the government, a government which sets its budget, gives it orders regarding the Imperial Family, and makes the final decision about all imperial duties. In addition, the IHA is staffed by officials from various government agencies, as well as the civil service, both of which are drawn heavily from the LDP and, thus, infected by their ultraconservative values.

Take, for example, the latest tutor to Princess Aiko, Crown Prince Naruhito’s only child and the future of the Chrysanthemum Throne. Her fifth “chamberlain” or tutor has a background that is based purely in the government and in various public ministries. While the “tutor” to a toddler is unlikely to come from the highest government echelon, it’s equally unlikely that the hidebound, conservative IHA – and the ultra-nationalist LDP from which it takes its orders – would permit a progressive liberal to be in charge of someone as important as Princess Aiko.

The extent of the government’s incredible conservatism and of its archaic views regarding the Imperial Family is best demonstrated by the situation involving the Yasukuni Shine. Yasukuni is a Shinto monument to Japan’s war dead and is closely linked to emperor worship and militarism. As recently as 2001, a new exhibit at the Shrine continued to espouse the revisionist line regarding the war and the emperor’s role therein:

The slick, Shinto-oriented rewrite of history… denies that Emperor Hirohito renounced his divinity in 1946, as most westerners and Japanese believe. … It is at the vanguard of the revisionist movement. The 4bn yen (£22m) renovation and enlargement of the shrine’s museum, completed last month, goes to new lengths to roll back changes made during the allies’ postwar occupation. A walk around the exhibits is a moving experience. Many visitors sob as they look at the photographs and letters of kamikaze pilots. Their sacrifice – made in the name of a divine emperor – is lauded by the museum, which blames the United Statesfor prompting the war. It dismisses claims that the spiritual status of the emperor changed after defeat.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/japan/story/0,7369,778007,00.html

The IHA has been careful not to comment on the Shrine’s interpretation of the Emperor’s role but it doesn’t need to; several Japanese prime ministers have been happy to do so in its place, both implicitly and explicitly. Since 1945, numerous prime ministers and cabinet officials have visited the Shrine, in an official capacity, and paid their respects to the “heroic” war dead and the Emperor in whose name they acted. Making matters worse, several of them have done so in an official capacity, and just a day or so before August 15th, the date of Japan’s surrender in WWII. http://tinyurl.com/4tctz These attempts to honour the nationalistic past, and the imperial role, continue to the present day. As recently as 2000, the former prime minister, Yoshiro Mori, proposed renaming the Greenery Day national holiday–Hirohito’s April 29 birthday–as “Showa Day” in honor of the wartime emperor. The plan was dropped due to its controversial nature but Mori wasn’t dissuaded. At a speech to Shinto religious leaders and groups, he declared that Japan was “a divine nation” with the emperor at its center. After a firestorm of angry responses, Mori finally apologized for any misunderstanding that his comments may have caused but he never retracted the comments themselves.

The current Prime Minister, Junichiro Koizumi, has gone even further. An ardent nationalist with a cult-like status, Koizumi is at the forefront of the revisionist movement: he has called some of the Class-A war criminals buried at the Yasukuni Shrine “martyrs;” he has paid actual homage at the shrine in his official capacity as a government official; he has refused to make any changes to the new school textbook giving the most inventive explanation for Japan’s actions during WWII; and he’s intent on amending the Constitution to permit a military. In fact, under his tenure, the Japanese parliament has begun a debate on revising the Church and State portions of the Constitution, a debate which has clear implications for the Shinto religion and, thus, for the Emperor with which it’s connected. It’s doubtful that Koizumi seeks to return the Emperor or the Imperial Family to their prewar status but it cannot be denied that any change in the separation between religion and state will indirectly impact the emperor’s role, especially under an ultra-conservative party intent on managing the monarchy for its own political purposes. Seehttp://tinyurl.com/4nxbm.

One may ask how the LDP’s quasi-shogunate or the nationalism shown by various Prime Ministers has to do with the IHA. Quite simply, the IHA is tied at the hip to the LDP and, while Prime Ministers may come and go, the IHA always stays the same. It’s an organization not subject to the vicissitudes of elections or public scrutiny. Yet, it shares the same political traditions, systemic stubbornness towards changes, and conservative ideology. The fact that the IHA is made up of officials who come from the LDP and the LDP-filled Civil Service — two groups with an almost unbroken tie to the prewar political system and its accompanying political ideology — merely strengthens the Agency’s ultra conservative approach towards the Imperial Family.

It’s unlikely that the IHA seeks to return the Emperor to the position that he once held but it’s equally unlikely that it favours a democratic, populist approach to the monarchy. There is probably no greater abomination for the IHA, short of the monarchy’s complete absolution, than a populist, bicycling monarchy like that of the Dutch. On second thought, a populist, informal monarchy probably wouldn’t be as horrific as the possibility of having the previously divine monarchy treated like the British royal family. One can only imagine how the IHA views the situation experienced by the Windsors, where voracious paparazzi and media intrusions permit the public to salivate over such personal details as the monarch’s breakfast, the sex life of royal children, and royal lovers.

While the IHA may not believe in a return to a supposedly absolutist monarchy, it is still institutionally, politically and ideologically incapable of ignoring the Imperial Family’s traditional role. It’s an organization which sees its wards – the Imperial Family – as the living remnants of a history and tradition that Japan must keep alive. One of the ways of achieving this goal is to protect the monarchy’s mystique by isolating the royals from excessive public access, scrutiny or knowledge. Another more important method is to ensure that the unbroken line of descent going back to the goddess, Amaterasu, is maintained by having an heir. A male heir.

While there have been eight empresses on the Chrysanthemum Throne, they were essentially regents who did not pass power or rule to their own descendents. These empresses were either unwed or widowed and, upon their death, the throne reverted back to the next male in the line of succession. Thus, the principle of male succession remained intact. To the ultra royalists who make up the IHA, this principle must continue to remain unbroken. Breaking that rule would be breaking Japan’s imperial traditions, history and legacy. To a great number of ultra-conservatists, even worse than that heresy is the possibility, in their minds, that a reigning empress signals “the end of history.” http://tinyurl.com/4x3ba

Ironically, the Japanese public shares none of these perspectives. In fact, the postwar generation is at the opposite political and ideological spectrum from both the IHA and the political elites. They have been for a long time. Things had changed dramatically from the late 1940s when waves of screaming hordes greeted Emperor Hirohito on his purported disaster tours. The younger generation viewed Emperor Hirohito as a war criminal and had little interest in his successor. In fact, in the early 1990s, the majority of the public couldn’t tell you the name of the Crown Prince (Naruhito) and they certainly didn’t care about the new Emperor (Akihito). Postwar events, cultural changes among the young and the IHA’s attempts to maintain the mystique of the Chrysanthemum Throne by keeping the Imperial Family aloof from the public had only made the people indifferent to the monarchy. Many were frankly hostile. The extreme conservativism of the political elite was, thus, at a total variance from the pacifist, non-monarchial, modern approach of the Japanese people themselves.

It’s within this context that the new Crown Prince fell in love with the epitome of a modern, successful, professional woman. His search for a suitable bride had taken more than seven long years, so long that — in a complete break from palace protocol — his younger brother had gotten married ahead of him. But the Crown Prince only wanted one woman and he was determined to wait for her. Ms. Owada Masako was the daughter of a senior diplomat who had traveled the world with her parents since she was a child. She went to kindergarten in Moscow, attended high school in Boston, graduated from Harvard both Phi Beta Kappa (National Honours Society for the top 10% of all students nationwide) and Magna Cum Laude, and then attended the prestigious Balliol College, Oxford. Fluent in numerous languages, she joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and was a career diplomat with a promising future when she met the Crown Prince at a party. The Crown Prince fell in love there and then, and he refused to consider anyone else.

Masako, in contrast, was distinctly less enthused. She knew very well the stresses and difficulties caused by marrying into the Imperial Family. It was a well known, though little publicized, fact that Empress Michiko, Naruhito’s mother, had barely survived her induction into the Imperial Family. The Empress, the first commoner ever to marry into the Imperial Family, had had such a difficult adjustment that she’d had a nervous breakdown and even lost her voice for 7 months. It’s unclear if she couldn’t speak or if she simply didn’t want to but, either way, one thing was clear: marriage to the imperial heir was a Herculean task that could break even the strongest woman.

Masako’s qualms didn’t stop the Crown Prince. It’s unclear how long Masako held out and how long he waited for her but some say he refused to consider anyone else for as long as several years. Time after time, he rejected the suitable brides paraded before him until, eventually, his parents asked him what the problem was. He finally confessed his love for Masako. After much discussion, and the Crown Prince’s insistence that his feelings would not change, he obtained his parents’ permission to court her.

That was just the first step. The Crown Prince also had to convince the IHA officials that she was a suitable candidate, even though her grandfather was a mere businessman. Then, he had to convince Masako herself. The latter proved to be the most difficult task. Masako refused him three times but still he persisted. Finally, he said, “I promise to protect you with all my power as long as I live.” Those must have been the magic words because she agreed to marry him.

In hindsight, those words may seem prophetic but I think Masako knew exactly what she would be facing and what was necessary if she – and an Imperial marriage – were to survive. Masako was a child of the Establishment, with a father who was high up in the Diplomatic Corps. She grew up in a world and family which would have given her much insight into Japan’s political system. Her family was also sufficiently high up for her to have heard not only the truth about the Empress’ breakdown but also about the reality of life behind the palace walls. She would have known exactly what she faced as Naruhito’s bride, and she was strong enough to hold out for her suitor’s express promise to stand by her side against any bureaucratic bullying.

There are other ways of looking at this famous promise. One possibility is that Masako was influenced by such royal marriages as that between Sarah Ferguson and Prince Andrew, The Duke of York. One school of thought argues that the Yorks’ marriage failed because the royal spouse did not sufficiently intervene with the notorious “Grey Men” of Buckingham Palace to protect his wife. While Masako was no impulsive Fergie, perhaps she had learnt from that unsuccessful marriage and felt that she’d need her future spouse to actively protect her against the palace mandarins.

Another possibility is that Masako simply had no more excuses to hold out once the Crown Prince made that oath. Some people have alleged that she would have continued to refuse Prince Naruhito’s offer but her father was promised a significant promotion in his diplomatic postings if Masako accepted the Prince’s proposal and she was sold into the marriage for the family’s prestige. According to these cynics, the fact that Masako’s father received a more prestigious diplomatic assignment almost immediately upon his daughter’s engagement and marriage is proof positive that Masako was coerced or sold into marriage against her wishes. As a romantic, I prefer to think that the marriage was based on real love, even if there was some natural perturbation on Masako’s side. After all, what modern, independent, successful career woman would jump into the Imperial Family without even a second’s hesitation, especially if they already knew of the IHA and its incredible power?

Once the engagement was announced, there was a huge swell in popular interest in the Imperial Family. Or, to be specific, in the future Princess Masako. People who couldn’t name half the main members of the Imperial Family knew every detail of Masako’s upbringing. The country was delighted not so much because the recalcitrant Crown Prince had finally chosen a bride but because Masako seemed to negate the image of the fusty, boring, hidebound, conservative, aloof Japanese royals. In fact, Masako seemed the epitome of a modern woman; her marriage, the ultimate love story; and the Japan’s new, populist “Princess Diana”, a complete antithesis to the rest of the Imperial Family. In other words, Masako was popular for being the exact opposite of everything that the IHA stood for and was intent on protecting. Like the “grey men” in some other monarchies, the IHA were completely out of touch with what the Japanese people cared about, an issue which bode ill for the future Crown Princess.

The couple married on June 9, 1993. And Cinderella woke up from the dream almost right away. Almost as if on the stroke of midnight, all festivities ended right after the wedding. The cream of international society and royalty left. Masako’s elegant, designer, Hanae Mori wedding gown with its full white-brocade skirts, plunging neckline and matching petal-design jacket was put away. The royal jewels went back into the vaults. And Japan’s new Crown Princess discovered what her new life was really going to be like.

In this Japanese royalist version, the wicked stepmother was alive and well in the form of the IHA, and they weren’t going anywhere. To the contrary, they had certain expectations for Japan’s new fairy princess, expectations that had their roots in Japan’s imperial history and the ruling elite’s political ideology. Woe betide the woman who could not satisfy those demands….

We’ll explore that situation and the various issues involved in the succession crisis next week in Part IV.