Seville brings back old tradition of gifting Queen of England oranges

The Andalusian city of Seville, famed for its oranges, is resurrecting an old tradition of gifting oranges (or in this case marmalade) to the British royals.

Seville brings back old tradition of gifting Queen of England oranges
Photo: Simon Dawson/AFP

The city has decided to reinstate this ritual, which was lost in the early 20th century, by turning oranges from the gardens of the ornate Real Alcázar Palace into marmalade as a gift for Queen Elizabeth II.

The city began gifting oranges to the British royals under the reign of Queen Victoria. It started when the Queen’s granddaughter, Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg who was married to the Spanish King Alphonse XIII, tasted some of the oranges from the gardens of the Alcázar Palace and thought they were so good that she sent some to her grandmother and the rest of the royal family. 

Since then, it became a tradition that every year, the royal family would receive a crate of oranges from the gardens. For reasons unknown, the tradition died out sometime in the early 20th century, around the time of the rule of George V, Queen Elizabeth’s grandfather. 

The bitter variety of oranges, which grows on trees adorning the city squares and gardens now, is not fit to be eaten raw, so making marmalade is the perfect way of using them up and restoring this great tradition. 

The oranges will be made into one of Britain’s favourite spreads at the house of the British Ambassador to Spain, Hugh Elliot.

Elliot expressed happiness that the lost tradition has now been reinstated and told the Alcázar director, Isabel Rodríguez that the oranges were “enormously appreciated” and that the marmalade would be “a blend of our cultures”.

oranges in Seville
Oranges in Seville. Image: Astrid Schmid /Pixabay

Rodríguez told El Diario de Sevilla on Wednesday, March 3rd that she was told of the lost tradition of sending oranges to the British royals by one of her colleagues. 

“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, who had the oranges made into marmalade and sent to the queen of England,” she said.

The Moorish Real Alcázar Palace, one of Seville’s top sites, is home to over 1,000 orange trees in its picturesque gardens.

Earlier this week, it was reported that Seville is also using up its oranges in another surprising way. 

The city’s municipal water company is piloting a scheme to produce electricity from the leftover oranges.

Aqua Publica Europea aims to collect oranges that have fallen on the roads and extract the juice to make biogas, while the peel will be turned into fertiliser.

The idea is that the biogas will be a source of renewable energy to power the regional EDAR Copero Wastewater Treatment Plant.

It is expected that the oranges will generate 1,500 kWh, which is enough to power 150 homes.

Mayor of Seville, Juan Espadas Cejas, said at a recent press conference: “Emasesa is now a role model in Spain for sustainability and the fight against climate change”.

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Top EU court raps Spain over wetlands

The European Union's top court warned Spain on June 24th that it needs to do more to protect Doñana National Park, home to one of Europe's largest wetlands, which is threatened by intensive farming.

Top EU court raps Spain over wetlands
Doñana National Park. Photo: Ángel Sánchez / Pixabay

The massive park in the southern region of Andalusia boasts a diverse ecosystem of lagoons, marshlands, scrub woodland, beaches and sand dunes and is home to fallow deer, wild boars, European badgers and endangered species including the Spanish imperial eagle and the Iberian lynx.

It is also on the migratory route of millions of birds each year.

Environmentalists have warned that over-extraction of water by neighbouring farms, often through illegal wells, is causing the lagoons and marshlands to dry out.

The area around the park is a major producer of strawberries, blueberries and raspberries.

Green groups also complain that large amounts of water are being diverted to meet the needs of tourists.

The Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice ruled on June 24th that Spain was in breach of EU nature legislation because it “did not take into account the illegal water extractions” in the park and their impact on groundwater.

“It has not taken appropriate measures to avoid disturbances of the protected habitats located in the park which were caused by this catchment” of water, the court added.

The court was responding to a complaint filed by the European Commission in 2019 against Spain for failing to protect the park.

If Madrid does not follow the recommendations of the court it faces hefty fines.

Spain racked up more infringements of EU environmental laws between 2015
and 2018 than any other member state – and nearly three times the average per
member, according to the European Commission.

READ ALSO: Why thousands of trees in Spain’s capital are at risk of dying