King Charles III Breaks A Big And Kind Of Gross Coronation Food Tradition

As the United Kingdom prepares for the coronation of King Charles III, there is a whirlwind of festivities and food. Along with other changes to the traditional coronation menu, lamprey pie has been replaced.  

For eight centuries, the city of Glouchester gave the monarch a pie around Christmas based on their traditional recipe, according to Glouchester Live. The City of Glouchester presented several traditional lamprey pies to Queen Elizabeth II, starting with her 1953 coronation and continuing this gesture during other Jubilee celebrations. Archaeologist Andrew Armstrong told The New York Times that the city of Gloucester previously provided once-plentiful lamprey to the British Royalty for feasts and banquets. 

Lampreys were once a popular delicacy among royals in medieval Europe, but the annual lamprey pies stopped due to dwindling lamprey populations. Instead, the city now presents pies only for special occasions. The Glouchester City Council did commission a pie in honor of the coronation, but due to the King's concerns, the pie filling was changed to pork and apple. However, the lamprey-shaped pastries atop the pie still nod to medieval tradition. 

King Charles may be on to something. After all, according to the Royal UK, rumor has it that King Henry I met his demise after feasting on too many lampreys in 1135. However, sustainability seems closer to the heart of this decision. 

Lampreys are a vulnerable species in the United Kingdom

Students associated with the U.K. youth charity National Star helped Cinderhill Farm in St Briavels and the City of Glouchester make the pie and present it, according to National Star. The pie was accepted by the King's representative, Lord-Lieutenant Edward Gillespie, then donated to a local hunger charity. Gillespie told The New York Times he and King Charles are pleased with the change to the tradition given the lamprey's vulnerable status. "It would be inappropriate in these times to present lampreys to anybody," said Gillespie.

In the U.K., lampreys are considered vulnerable and in need of protection. The Guardian reported their numbers declined in recent centuries partially due to decreased water quality and human-made barriers, which kept some out of their traditional spawning grounds.

Lampreys have existed for 360 million years and maintain ancient features, like gill holes, that you don't find in modern fish. Some consider them to be "living fossils." The U.K. has three types of freshwater and saltwater-dwelling lampreys. According to the conservation agency NatureScot, fishing of lampreys is limited and managed to sustain the species. Despite popular misconception, lampreys are not eels but rather jawless fish. Most varieties are parasitic and drink blood from other fish.

If you want to celebrate the coronation in a more contemporary way, try the Coronation Quiche that the King selected for the occasion.