A Taste of Diplomacy: Iconic Franco-British banquets

By Valentine Benoist

As we celebrate 120 years of Entente Cordiale between France and the UK, let’s reflect on the long-lasting ties between the two nations. The most important part, according to us at Taste France Magazine? Gastronomy, of course! 

A Taste of Diplomacy: iconic Franco-British banquets _ photo

Beyond treaties and agreements, the art of hospitality is an incredibly powerful diplomatic tool. From lavish banquets to intimate dinners, French and British diplomats have long shared meals to foster friendship and understanding. Join us on a culinary journey through three iconic diplomatic banquets, epitomising the enduring bond between France and the UK throughout the centuries.  


1520: a lavish 4-day Mediaeval feast in Calais 


Asserting power through hospitality is nothing new. In the 15th century, Henry VIII and Francois 1er set up their famous “Field of the Cloth of Gold” summit near Calais, to nurture their friendship following the 1515 Anglo-French treaty. 

Each king was on a mission to outshine the other, which translated into extravagant tents and feasts for 3,000 guests, including the likes of gold leaf-armoured roosters served as riding warriors. A whopping 55 cooks were dedicated to meat prep only! At that time, spices played the role of side dishes and there was almost not a veg in sight. Drinkswise, the pop-up English canvas palace even included a free-flowing beer and wine fountain. A gargantuan display of power! 

© Royal-Collection-Trust

1904: celebrating 100 years of Entente Cordiale 


In 1904, the signing of the Entente Cordiale marked a turning point in Franco-British relations, paving the way for diplomatic cooperation. A century later, Queen Elizabeth II and Duke of Edimburgh Philip made the trip to Paris to mark the occasion and reaffirm the friendship between the two countries.  

President Jacques Chirac hosted them at the Elysée Palace - at the State table, only la crème de la crème of French tableware (silver cutlery, Sèvres porcelain…) was on display. As for every official visit of the Queen, the menu was carefully tailored to offer some of Her Majesty’s all-time favourites, like foie gras and Bordeaux wines. Her favourite French pairing? Château d’Yquem Sauternes, the most aromatic sweet white wine from the Bordeaux region to reveal all the complexity of homemade foie gras. 

The Hall of Mirrors reception: a banquet fit for a King 


Last but definitely not least, French presidential couple Emmanuel Macron and wife Brigitte rolled out the red carpet to host King Charles III and Queen Camilla in 2023. Held in the legendary Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles, it echoed the state visit of Queen Elizabeth II in 1972 with President Georges Pompidou.  

This sumptuous State Banquet - including blue lobster, corn-fed Bresse poultry PDO and Ispahan macaron - was imagined by a stellar line-up of French chefs with a foot on the other side of the channel: Anne-Sophie Pic, Yannick Alléno and pastry genius Pierre Hermé.  
The cheese platter reunited the best of both worlds, with French 30-month Comté PDO cheese and British Stichelton making an appearance. A menu fit for a king, paired with first growth Bordeaux wine, top Burgundy Bâtard Montrachet Grand Cru and vintage Champagne PDO - a nod to Sir Winston Churchill’s favourite bubbles with Pol Roger’s namesake cuvée.  


From historic treaties to modern challenges, food and drink have always served as symbols of unity and cooperation. Let’s raise a glass of Champagne to the next chapter of Franco-British relations! 


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