British aristocrats rented pineapples by the hour to show off their status

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(ORDO NEWS) — Who would have thought that a few centuries ago such an ordinary fruit as pineapple would become a symbol of wealth, status and good breeding?

Worth a thousand coins, the precious pineapple was too important to eat; so the elite of society paid huge amounts of money to rent a pineapple by the hour, displaying it at events, displaying it as decoration at a dinner, or simply holding it under their arm during a public walk, of course, with a security guard behind their back!

In the 16th and 17th centuries, many exotic dishes and products were brought to Europe from the New World, and the pineapple was not only tasty, but its exotic appearance with an impressive “crown” on top gave it a regal look.

King Charles II was so fascinated by the pineapple that he commissioned a portrait of him holding a pineapple.

British aristocrats rented pineapples by the hour to show off their status 2
King Charles II presents a pineapple. British School, ca. 1675-80 Royal Collection, London

For the British, getting pineapple was difficult. Most transport ships at that time were too slow and conditions too unsuitable for pineapples to sustain the journey, and for at least two centuries attempts to grow them in their homeland proved impossible.

Pineapples quickly became a symbol of wealth and status. They were carved on furniture, made decorations from them, painted on wagons, sculpted on buildings, plinths and garden temples.

In that era, getting a real pineapple in your hands cost no less than a bag of gold. In fact, one pineapple could cost the equivalent of £5,000 – £10,000!

For those who weren’t rich enough to pay for a pineapple, there was still hope. The pineapple could be rented by the hour and was rented many times over the course of a week before it was finally sold to a lucky person who could actually eat it.

Over time, as transport improved and supplies of pineapples to Britain became more regular, and as methods were developed for growing pineapples in greenhouses throughout Europe, prices began to fall, and pineapples ceased to be associated with status.

But the next time you complain about pineapple on your pizza, think of those poor souls who paid dearly for the privilege of just holding a pineapple in their hands.


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