The par force hunt
Par force hunting was the height of fashion for absolutist royalty in the 1600s. The hunt was a grand theatrical event, meticulously planned to demonstrate power and greatness. In Denmark, par force hunting took place in the forests of North Zealand.
Par force hunting was introduced in Denmark by Christian V. It originated in France, where Christian V had visited the French court and the Sun King Louis XIV in his youth and become fascinated by the ostentatious hunting style.
Putting food on the table was not the aim of par force hunting, as a stag that has run for hours is inedible due to the lactic acid that builds up in its muscles. It was pure spectacle.
The King and his distinguished guests participated in the hunt or positioned themselves centrally in the forest while they waited to be summoned. Meanwhile, the mounted hunters and their hounds pursued the day’s quarry. In Denmark, this was often a large, majestic stag. From their waiting place, the King and his guests could watch the hunters, horses and hounds as they persecuted the frantic stag at great speed. When the exhausted stag was no longer able to run, the dogs held it fast by biting its throat, ears, legs and muzzle. Thus, the stag was “fixed” and the King was summoned with a special horn signal. He carried out his duty as the master of the hunt by killing the stag with a stab wound to the heart. To this end, the King used a spear or a small hunting sword called a hirschfænger.
It was here he could demonstrate his prowess as a great warrior King who dominated nature. However, this undertaking was not without risk. The hunt required precision, strength and, not least, the courage to get close to the stag and deliver the coup de grace. The stag, which could weigh up to 200 kg, may well have been exhausted, but with adrenaline and fear coursing through its body, it was difficult for the hounds to hold on to it. One swipe of its impressive antlers or a hard kick from its hind legs could be fatal. Most often, though, the hunt ended well and the King could show off his triumph before his guests.