November 10 1814: Royal Boar Hunt

“On the morning [ November 10 1814]* Castlereagh was digesting this latest broadside in the de plume’, the sovereigns were wielding real guns at a wild boar shoot organised a few miles outside the city for the relief of their frustrations and the delectation of the hundreds of ministers, courtiers and other onlookers who filled the specially constructed stands. For several days beaters had gone through the extensive forests, gradually funnelling some six hundred wild boar, along with other game, into a holding area adjacent to an open space, effectively a corridor four hundred feet long and 150 wide.

‘The sovereigns posted themselves along this space, a few feet apart, and, from time to time five or six beasts were released and forced to pass along the row of sovereigns, who were placed according to rank, so that if the Emperors missed the unfortunate wild boars, the Kings would have the honour of taking aim at them, and if they also missed it was the turn of the Princes, then of the Dukes, then of the Field Marshals, and then of the more lowly,’ in the words of the horrified Eynard. ‘This hunt, which is nothing more than an assassination of wild boar, lasted all morning, and the monarchs had the glory of killing five hundred of them. The fat King of Wurtemberg, who rather resembles a wild boar himself, killed thirty-five, the Emperor of Austria thirty-three. I have seen nothing more disgusting or more revolting than such a pastime; there is no skill, no risk and no exercise and hunting in this manner is to perform the task of the butcher.’ The Empress of Austria had also distinguished herself at the shoot, killing more than her fair share of the bag, and both she and the Queen of Bavaria were in exceptionally high spirits as the hunting party drove over to Schönbrunn for dinner.

After that, they all drove back to Vienna just in time to retire and dress for the masked ball in the Hofburg that evening. The ball was, according to Anna Eynard, ‘the height of boredom’. The great rooms were packed with thousands of people of every station, and the crush was so great that the sovereigns had difficulty in opening the ball with the polonaise, and had to be preceded by soldiers pushing back the throng. The heat was so intense that a number of ladies fainted. Many of them were in a state of chronic exhaustion as a consequence of the continuous round of parties, with the inevitable late nights and physical exertions. ‘They are all frighteningly thin and sallow,’ Marie-Louise informed a friend in Paris.”

—  Rites of Peace: The Fall of Napoleon and the Congress of Vienna by Adam Zamoyski.

* I accidentally tweeted the Royal wild boar hunt at the Congress of Vienna as having taken place on November 9 1814. In fact, it appears to have taken place the next day. I also quoted  Anne-Charlotte-Adélaide Eynard as an observer when in fact it was her husband the Swiss banker Jean-Gabriel Eynard. A daguerreotype of the couple from 1845 can be found below. My apologies for the errors.

 

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