Pique and peacocks in Persepolis
Pique and peacocks in Persepolis
From David Housego – Persepolis, Oct 14, 1971
Six hundred guests of the Shah sat down tonight to what must be the most extensively publicized meal in recent years.
The roll call of majestic sounding titles, the aides de camp hovering in attendance, the chandeliers hanging high above the tables, the music played from a minstrel’s gallery, the gold plated cutlery used by the heads of state – all seemed to hark back to a European court of a century or more ago. The beginnings of the banquet were like watching an old engraving come slowly to life.
The meal was cooked and served by a staff of 180 drawn from Maxim’s of Paris, the Palace Hotel, St. Moritz, and the Hotel de Paris, Monte Carlo, working under the supervision of M. Vaudable, the owner of Maxim’s.
The menu has already become a legend and one of some importance because it could be damaging politically to the Shah.
It consisted of quails’ eggs stuffed with golden imperial caviar (Champagne an Chateau de Saran); mouse of crayfish tails (Haut Brion Blanc, 1964); Roast saddle of lamb with truffles (Chateau Lafite Rothschild, 1945); sorbet of Moet et Chandon, 1922; fifty peacocks with tail feathers restored, encompassed by roasted quail and served with nut and truffle salad (Musigny Conte de Vogue, 1945), fresh figs with cream in raspberries and port wine (Dom Perrignon, 1959, reserve vintage), coffee and cognac Prince Eugene.
The peacocks were mainly for decoration, as the peacock is an emblem associated with the Persian crown. It appears that the Shah does not like caviar and ordered artichoke hearts instead.
The Shah and the Empress Farah received their guests in the red damask reception room of the state banqueting tent, which dominates the canvas village here. The Shah with the Queen of Denmark beside him then led the procession into the banqueting hall, which was draped in pink and blue. He was followed by the Empress and Emperor Haile Selassi of Ethiopia.
In all 37 heads of state have descended on Persepolis for the celebrations to mark the 2500th anniversary of the Persian monarchy although this includes the rulers from the smaller states of the Persian Gulf who have come in strength and Prince Rainier of Monaco and Prince Franz Josef of Liechtenstein.
The most impressive contingent is ironically from the communist world, and includes President Padgorny of Russia, President Ceausescu of Rumania, President Losonczi of Hungary, President Svoboda of Czechoslovakia, and President Tito of Yugoslavia.
The West European nations to have sent heads of state are Norway, Belgium, Denmark, Luxembourg and Greece, the latter in the person of King Constantine. In all 69 nations are represented.
The Duke of Edinburgh and Princess Anne arrived this afternoon from Teheran where they had visited the Shah’s stables at Farahabad to the east of the city. Princess Anne had a brief ride on one of the royal stallions.
Although British-Iranian relations are somewhat strained at the moment because of the dispute over the islands in the Persian Gulf, some official food will has been generated by the British Museum’s decision to lend for a limited period the cylinder seal which records Cyrus the Great’s “declaration of rights” which he issued after his conquest of Babylon in 538 BC.
The seal is the official symbol of the celebrations and it will be shown in the museum attached to the Shahyad monument outside Teheran, which the Shah will open on Saturday. The Iranians feel much the same about it as the Greek feel about the Elgin marbles.
Prince Philip piloted the Andover of the Queen’s Flight, which brought him, and Princess Anne to Shiraz. They were then driven under armed escort to Persepolis and installed in tent No.21.
The allocation of the tents has ruffled some feathers. The official West German party is particularly indignant that Herr Kai-Uwe von Hassel, president of the Bundestag, who is representing Germany, is being housed in the Darius Hotel at Persepolis and not in a tent as they had assumed.
The Iranian view is that he is only third in the order of precedence in West Germany and not senior enough to sleep under canvas. There is no doubt the Iranians are disappointed that President Heinemann had to cancel his acceptance of an invitation because of his eye operation.
Cardinal de Furstenberg, the Pope’s special representative, was also under the impression that he would have a tent. He, too, was taken to the Darius Hotel but had to wait two hours before a room could be found. At one point a threat was made that he could return to Italy.
The 94 principal guests at tonight’s banquet were ranged on one side of a long zigzag table designed to accommodate the maximum number of people as well as blur questions of protocol. The other guests, who included ambassadors and members of the suites of heads of states, sat in groups of 12 at a smaller tables.
At the top of table the Duke of Edinburgh sat between Prince Rainier of Monaco and Prince Carl Gustav of Sweden. President Padgorny found himself seated oddly next to the Grand Duchess of Luxembourg, and Mr. Agnew was next to Mr. Klimaszeweski, Vice-President of the Council of State of Poland.
Princess Anne was at one of the smaller tables between Tunku Abdul Rahman, of Malaysia, and Prince Gholam Reza, the Shah’s brother.