This section is from the book "The Steward's Handbook And Guide To Party Catering", by Jessup Whitehead. Also available from Amazon: Larousse Gastronomique.
Formerly served at royal banquets with the utmost pomp and ceremony, generally with its plumage replaced after cooking and its beak and claws gilded. It is occasionally now sold for turkey and passes without the difference being noticed. The reason for its not being now in general use for the table is the harsh, unsociable nature of the bird, which makes the rearing too troublesome and too destructive to other poultry to be followed for profit.
"At all banquets, both of the elder and of the middle ages, the peacock was a favorite piece of decoration. Sometimes it was quite covered with leaf-gold, as if that were an improvement upon its brilliant dyes, and with a bit of linen in its mouth, dipped in spirits and set on fire, it was served on a golden dish by the lady of highest rank, attended by her train of maidens and followed by music, and was set before the most distinguished guest. This was a performance of great state and ceremony, and the bird was held in so far sacred that oaths could be taken on its head.