Fruit of Kings - The Pineapple's Debut in Europe

Fruit of Kings - The Pineapple's Debut in Europe

Photo Credit: Hendrick Danckerts (c. 1625-1680), John Rose, the Kings's Gardener, presenting Charles II with a pineapple, supposedly the first grown in England, at Dorney Court, Berkshire, oil on canvas.

When Columbus returned to Spain from his second voyage to the New World, he brought King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella gifts including a single pineapple that arrived unspoiled along with gold nuggets, exotic birds, trees animals and plants.  When Ferdinand sampled a pineapple, he declared that he preferred it to all others!  

In that era the finest fruits, brought from far away or grown in the King's own garden were regarded as prerequisites of royal tables.  This tradition stretched back to antiquity, when rulers of Babylon and Assyria established celebrated gardens where they planted rare trees, fruits and flowers from distant parts of their empires. Ever since maintaining grand gardens of fine fruits had been the greatest of royal and princely luxuries, a source of pride and pleasure.

The palace gardens of Spain were renowned for their fruits, especially oranges, but pineapples could not be grown outdoors there or anywhere else in Europe.  Pineapples require tropical warmth throughout the year to flourish.  

For the time being ships would bring an occasional pineapple to royalty along with silver, gold, brazilwood, cochineal, pearls and sugar.  Royalty in that day considered the pineapple their due.  Pineapples arrived to them from faraway places at huge cost and the fruit was the embodiment of majesty. As the French physician Pierre Pomet wrote in his Compleat History of Drugs, was right to call the pineapple

the King of Fruits because it is much the finest and best of all that are upon the Face of the Earth.  It is for this Reason that the King of Kings has placed a Crown upon the Head of it, which is an essential mark of its Royalty. 

Adapted from: 

O'Connor, Kaori. "Chapter I: Fruit of Kings." Pineapple: A Global History. N.p.: Reaktion, 2013. 


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