Seville Oranges fit for a Queen

by Lorraine Williamson
Seville oranges

Seville oranges have already been in the news this week for their ability to create green energy. However this time, an old tradition has been revived and they will be sent to the Queen of England as marmalade.

According to El Pais, “A crate of the citrus fruits will be turned into marmalade at the residence of the British ambassador to Spain and delivered to Queen Elizabeth II”.

A firm favourite for breakfast in the UK

As legend goes, citrus fruits including oranges were originally used by rich merchants and the Royal Navy. Importantly, this was for their sailors who were struck by scurvy caused by lack of vitamin C. However, tales from France will say the name marmalade translates from French to “sea sickness”. Alternatively, the English version originated with Queen Mary Tudor of England´s French doctor prescribing “marmalade” to cure her from illness. Regardless, marmalade has become a firm favourite for breakfast in the UK.

The Alcázar

Oranges were first brought to Spain in the 12th century by the Almohad caliphs (North African Berber Muslim empire). They were who ruled Al-Andalus at the time. At this point the Alcázar was being used as a residential fortress. Nowadays, the Alcázar is a royal palace in Seville, originally built for the Christian King Peter of Castile. There are many stories surrounding these oranges, but apparently, the first tree was planted in the Alcázar by King Peter. Now there are around 7000 square metres of gardens with over 1000 trees that are hand-picked each year.

The tradition

The tradition of sending the bitter oranges from Seville to Spain began when Spanish king Alphonse XIII and his British wife, Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg, (granddaughter of Queen Victoria), tasted the Alcázar oranges. They loved them and asked for a sample to be sent to the British Royal Family. From that point on, it became a tradition.

Casa Las Dunas Spain

However, this tradition was lost around the 1970s, but has been revived, thanks to an initiative taken by Isabel Rodríguez. Director of the Alcázar since 2019, Rodríguez found out about the lost tradition and contacted honorary consul in Seville, Joe Cooper.  Between them, they reinstated the tradition. 

The British Ambassador

The transformation from citrus into marmalade will take place inside the residence of the British ambassador to Spain, Hugh Elliot. He who wrote a letter of thanks to Alcázar director Isabel Rodríguez.

As reported by The Telegraph, “We are delighted to be part once again of this tradition. It represents such a delicious fusion of our two cultures. We are very grateful for the generosity of the Royal Alcázar. And look forward to completing the process of creating and sharing a high-quality finished product, worthy of its royal ancestry,” said Ambassador Elliott.

The lost tradition

When talking to El Diario de Sevilla, Rodríguez explained that she was informed in late 2019 by another Alcázar official about the lost tradition of sending Seville oranges to the British royals. “Last year we got in touch with the honorary consul in Seville, Joe Cooper. And we prepared a 20-kilogram crate of oranges from our trees. He sent that via diplomatic bag to the ambassador.  The oranges were then made into marmalade and sent to the queen of England.”

Rodríguez continued, “This year, however, it was the consul in Seville who visited us last week to pick them up and send them to Madrid once more.”

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