Rose Articles

The Rose: War, Love and Peace

by Terri Clark

The more I experience life, the more I am convinced of the yin and yang philosophy therein. Out of pain comes comfort, and the deepest, darkest moments of war finally yield to joy, love and peace. Who would have thought amidst this that the rose would be so deeply ingrained in the history of man, more often than not, filled with war and inevitably followed by peace.

Looking back to the 15th Century between 1453-1487, we find the famous War of the Roses, a thirty-four year conflict between the English houses of York and Lancaster. This power struggle pitted the White Rose, symbolic of the House of York, against the famous Red Rose Lancastrians (famous for all those Henrys). After over three decades of combat, the triumphant Henry VII combined the contrasting roses into one single symbol, the red and white Tudor Rose.

War & Love
rosesouvenirFast forwarding to the late 18th Century, we discover Josephine Tascher, born to an agrarian but aristocratic French family on the Island of Martinique. Here her love of all things flora and fauna found their beginnings. She carried these passions all her life and indulged them even more after becoming Empress Josephine to the renowned general and later Emporer, Napoleon Bonaparte. It is said that the paradise-like garden she created at her Chateau de Malmaison, just outside Paris, contained over 250 species of roses from around the world. Lore even has it that Napoleon called a brief cease-fire during one of his many skirmishes allowing a special ship to pass. Its cargo: precious roses bound for Josephine’s garden.

We rose lovers of two centuries hence also owe our gratitude to Josephine for employing the fabled Dutch artist Pierre-Joseph Redoute. The majority of his old rose and lily paintings were commissioned by Josephine and were undertaken at her idyllic gardens at Malmaison. Interestingly, though a war was briefly halted on her behalf, nothing could save her marriage when she proved unable to produce an heir for Naploeon. However, his eternal admiration for her provided a hefty alimony allowing her remaining peaceful years to be spent at Malmaison surrounded by her roses.

War & Peace
One of the last Century’s most inspiring rose stories unfolded as the clouds of war gathered over Europe in the 1930s. French horticulturist Francis Meilland, scion of the famous Meilland Rose Growers established in 1850, had been developing a new hybrid tea rose since the late 1920s and now feared that it would be lost to a German occupation. Furiously Meilland sent cuttings of his new hybrid to friends in Italy, Turkey and America.

peace roseFollowing the war, Meilland contacted English Field Marshal Allan Brooke, one of the architects behind the winning strategy that brought an end to the conflict. He asked Brooke if he could name his prized new Hybrid Tea rose after him. Brooke declined saying “Peace” would be a more enduring name than his own. And so the famous Peace rose was born (this is its trade name - its formal name is Rosa Madame A. Meilland).

Peace was introduced to the public in the United States on April 29, 1945, the very day that Berlin fell to the Allied Forces. Later that same year, Peace roses were given to each delegate at the inaugural meeting of the United Nations.

Peter Beales, the famous rosarian and writer who will be featured at the World Rose Convention later this year in Vancouver, had this to say about the Peace rose:

"Peace, without a doubt, is the finest Hybrid Tea ever raised and it will remain a standard variety forever.”

By the end of the 20th Century, over one hundred million Peace roses had been sold.

The War of the Roses, for the love of a rose or Peace? I’ll take peace anytime.