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  • Writer's pictureRosemary Gemmell

The Language of Roses

Flowers often have different meanings and in Victorian times, when young ladies were seldom alone with a suitor, the language of flowers became a secret form of communication between them. Here are some meanings for roses.

Red Rose

This was the sacred flower of Venus, the Roman goddess of love, and has been a symbol of love and beauty from ancient times to the present day. Nothing epitomizes romantic love as much as a dozen red roses on St Valentine’s Day. Robert Burns’ famous song, My Love is like a Red, Red Rose is famous throughout the world for its romantic sentiments of constant love.

In some countries, the red rose means marriage while in Christianity, it is sometimes symbolic of Christ’s shed blood. The red rose represented the House of Lancaster in the English Wars of the Roses from 1455-1485.

White Rose

Regarded as a symbol of purity and secrecy, the white rose represents water and is the flower of moonlight. In parts of Scotland, a white rose blooming in autumn was thought to herald an early death. A white rose bud often symbolised a girl too young to love. The white rose represented the House of York in the Wars of the Roses.

In Saxon times, red and white petals were showered on newlyweds to represent their union of passion (red roses) and purity (white roses).

Yellow Rose

The yellow rose is mostly associated with jealousy and infidelity. Today, it is also sometimes regarded as a symbol of joy and friendship.

Pink Rose

The pink rose often represents innocent love and happiness. Less intense than the red rose, it can be a symbol of poetic love and admiration. Often among the most fragrant of roses, they are sometimes given as a token of thanks.

Tudor Rose

With its red outer and white inner petals, the Tudor rose symbolizes unity, from the union of the two royal houses of York and Lancaster. It was adopted by Henry Tudor as his standard when he married Elizabeth of York in 1485.

The rose is still the emblem of England and few gardens are complete without its fragrant beauty in one form or another, from old-fashioned, perfumed damask roses to the smallest patio rosebud. The rose can even continue to give pleasure when it has died through the use of its dried petals and buds in fragrant pot-pourri. Definitely one of my favourite flowers!

My sweet light-hearted Victorian romance, Pride and Progress, features a few other flowers when Scottish station master, Arthur, tries to woo school teacher Emily. But the steam trains stand between them!

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