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The Mary Rose was a carrack warship built for the Royal Navy of Henry VIII of England (r. 1509-1547 CE). The ship infamously sank in the Solent off the south coast of England on 19 July 1545 CE, probably because water entered its open gun ports as it made a sharp turn. Almost all of the Mary Rose crew, up to 500 men, drowned. The wreck was raised in 1982 CE and is now preserved and on public display in the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard along with some 19,000 artefacts which give a unique insight into life in Tudor England.
The Royal Navy
Henry VIII was ambitious in his foreign policy, perhaps more so than he could actually afford. Attacking both Scotland and France several times in large land campaigns, Henry also decided to spend big on warships and so create the Royal Navy, one of his most significant contributions to England's history over the next few centuries. The king inherited a number of ships from his father, Henry VII of England (r. 1485-1509 CE), and was likely encouraged by such minor naval victories as the Battle of the Spurs against the French on 16 August 1513 CE. Further, a strong fleet would enable him to control the English Channel and blockade ports on Continental Europe if required. Henry's fleet was constructed in two spells, one prior to 1515 CE and another round of construction leading up to the 1540s CE. By the end of his reign, Henry would leave his heirs a navy boasting an impressive 53 ships, which now had a permanent fortified base at Portsmouth.
Henry's fleet included the two great warships Mary Rose, built in Portsmouth and launched in 1511 CE, and Henry Grâce à Dieu (aka 'Great Harry'), launched in 1514 CE. The Mary Rose, with a keel length of 32 metres (105 ft.) was assigned as Henry's vice-flagship while the latter never saw action despite its impressive size at 1,500 tons. The Mary Rose was originally 500-600 tons but after a refit was nearer 800 tons when it sank. In a long career, it served in the Battle of St Mathieu against the French in August 1512 CE and acted as a troopship in the Scottish campaign of 1513 CE.
The Mary Rose was a carrack, a short and not particularly fast vessel which had forecastles for accommodation built high at the bow and stern. These forecastles were necessary for the large complement of marines on board as naval tactics still prioritised boarding as the best way to defeat an enemy ship. Carracks had only a 2:1 ratio of length-to-beam while their arrangement of masts and complement of 9-10 sails was as follows: "The fore and main masts had square main and topsails while the mizzen and, when fitted, the fourth (bonaventure) masts were lateen rigged." (Bicheno, 337). Although stable in heavy seas and capable of carrying a large quantity of cargo, the carrack's width and superstructures made them top-heavy and unwieldy during sharp manoeuvres. The relative lack of manoeuvrability of this class of ship was considered an acceptable risk, given that the Royal Navy's function was to protect England's shores and not to sail the High Seas as in later periods.
On the Mary Rose, the gun ports would have been only about one metre (39 inches) above the waterline.
Previously, ships carried many small cannons, which were used to blast soldiers from the deck of an enemy vessel with scattered shot. Gradually, though, larger cannons were being employed which were capable of sinking an enemy ship by blasting holes in their hulls below or near the waterline. As these larger cannons were too heavy to place in the forecastles, where they would seriously unbalance the ship, they had to be placed lower in the hull, necessitating the use of gun ports - in effect windows which could be closed with a shutter when not in battle. On the Mary Rose, the gun ports would have been only about one metre (39 inches) above the waterline. Smaller cannons were still carried in the forecastles, especially at the stern, as these could be used to fire down on the lower middle deck of an enemy ship.
The Mary Rose was, therefore, refitted out along these lines. Originally, its hull was clinker-built (with overlapping planks) but was refitted with a smooth carvel hull around 1535 CE. Gun ports were added along the length of the hull so that the ship boasted over 90 cannons. This new-look Mary Rose is the version famously portrayed on the Anthony Roll. These three rolls of vellum, now in the British Library in London, carried illustrations of 58 English ships and, created by Anthony Anthony, they were presented to Henry VIII sometime in the early 1540s CE. The illustrations are not always entirely accurate but they do give a good impression of the Mary Rose at its best.
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During the Anglo-French war of 1542-46 CE, Francis I of France (r. 1515-1547 CE) sent a 120-200 ship naval fleet commanded by Admiral Claude d'Annebault to cross the English Channel and attack the Isle of Wight and probably Southampton. When faced with this force on 16 July 1545 CE, an English fleet of around 80 ships retreated back towards Portsmouth. The wind then dropped unexpectedly and four French ships rowed themselves into position and surprised the becalmed English fleet on 19 July.
The Mary Rose and the Henry Gråce à Dieu rolled out their cannons and attempted to face off with the speedier French galleys in the Solent, the strait between the Isle of Wight and the coast of England. The Mary Rose would have boasted a full complement of men: around 200 seamen, 185 marines, 30 gunners, and a good number of archers (138 longbows were discovered in the wreck). According to eyewitness accounts, the Mary Rose fired a broadside at the enemy, but then disaster struck as the English carrack heeled over to starboard. The Mary Rose then sank swiftly as the king looked on from his position on the shore at Southsea Castle. Lost with it were 400-500 men, including the vice-admiral Sir George Carew (b. c. 1504 CE). Perhaps as few as 25 men escaped with their lives. Not only could few seamen actually swim but nets had been placed over the Mary Rose's deck to inhibit French borders. These nets became a deadly trap for all those on board.
In the aftermath of the sinking, a French force then landed on the Isle of Wight but was successfully beaten back to their ships. Riddled with disease, the French fleet was eventually obliged to return home. As a consequence of the enormous financial loss and the further expenses which continuing the war with France would bring, Henry and the Privy Council decided to change strategy and secretly negotiate an alliance with either France or Spain. In the end, a peace deal was signed with France in June 1546 CE. The Mary Rose was not forgotten and several attempts were made to salvage her in the late 1540s CE. The ship, though, had sunk deep into the soft muddy seabed of the Solent where it would remain for the next 437 years.
A volunteer team of 600 divers made 28,000 dives to the Wreck site, recovering over 19,000 artefacts.
Theories on the Causes of the Sinking
There have been many theories discussed as to exactly why the Mary Rose sank, despite the number of eyewitnesses stating it keeled over of its own accord while turning and then quickly sank. The most likely explanation for the catastrophe is that the ship had made too tight a turn - perhaps trying to avoid running aground - and that, top-heavy in its design, the ship had so inclined that water flooded into the hold via the open gun ports. That the gun ports were open when the ship sank is attested by the wreck itself. Further, the wind direction on the day of the sinking may have further pushed the ship over to one side and exposed the gun ports to the sea.
Naturally, the French were eager to claim credit for sinking Henry's pride and joy. Intriguingly, a French cannonball made of granite was discovered in the hull, a fact some historians have used to support the theory that the ship was sunk by cannon fire. Others state that the granite might have come from Britain and been a part of the ship's ballast. Even if it had been holed by a cannon shot, the water rushing in would likely not have sunk the ship alone. However, water entering the hold and then destabilising the ship may well have then caused it to lean and let in much more water through the gun ports on one side of the ship, thus explaining the speed of the vessel's demise.
In yet another theory, scientific examination of the teeth of 18 crew members has revealed that 60% were likely not English. Could this mean the foreign members of the crew had not understood orders to close the gun ports in time? As ever, in the confusion of battle, it was perhaps a combination of several of these factors which brought about the ship's demise. Certainly, only a unique series of events would explain why the Mary Rose had never had flooding problems in its previous years of service.
The Mary Rose, leaning 60 degrees to starboard and settled in the seabed, was discovered again in 1836 CE by two divers, John and Charles Deane. The two brothers had noticed a few beams protruding from the seabed, and they found several cannons, too. Forgotten again for another 150 years, the area was then explored from 1965 CE by amateur divers in a project to find wrecks in the Solent. The team, led by Alexander McKee, came across an unusual depression in the seabed in 1966 CE, and a sonar scan in 1967 CE revealed there were indeed solid remains beneath the depression. In May 1971 CE, excavation work began, the site was surveyed, and several larger artefacts brought to the surface. Over the next ten years, a volunteer team of 600 divers made 28,000 dives to the site, recovering over 19,000 artefacts.
The starboard side of the Mary Rose was still intact, making a complete extraction back to the surface possible. Despite the wreck having been damaged by both time and the 19th-century CE attempt to dislodge what had become a hazard to shipping, the aireless muddy seabed had preserved much of the wood which would otherwise have long since disappeared. The Mary Rose wreck was thus salvaged in June 1982 CE. A special steel frame with multiple airbags was built to carefully cradle the wreck as it finally returned to the surface where it was placed on a barge and taken to Portsmouth's Royal Naval Base. The whole delicate process was broadcast live on television as 60 million people watched what was one of the great archaeological success stories of the century.
The immediate problem was to preserve wood and leather items which, now exposed to air again, were in danger of quickly disintegrating. The hull was subjected to a continuous chemical spray to conserve its condition and was put on public display in 1983 CE. Today, the wreck and its artefacts are managed by the Mary Rose Trust (maryrose.org).
Many of Mary Rose's cast iron and bronze cannons were recovered, including examples weighing up to 25 tons and decorated with the Tudor rose or lion's heads. Other weapons included the 138 longbows mentioned above and 3,500 arrows. There were, too, a number of gunpowder handguns, swords, daggers, and pikes.
Other finds include many wooden pieces of the ship's rigging such as pulleys and sheave blocks. The huge brick galley oven (one of a pair) was recovered, as well as large cooking pots, over 50 sea chests used by crew members for their personal possessions, three compasses, nine handheld sundials, carpentry tools, medical equipment and even the ship's bell (cast in 1510 CE as indicated by the inscription). A grindstone and heddle frame for making rope repairs was another unique find.
At a more personal level, several wooden combs and metal scissors used by the crew survive, as do pewter plates, tankards, and spoons. The latter would have belonged to the ship's officers, and a number of examples even have the initials 'G.C.' and so were owned by the fleet commander, Sir George Carew himself. Ordinary crew members used wooden plates and mugs, some of which have survived.
Life on board a Tudor ship is further revealed by such artefacts as drums, a backgammon board, bone dice, leather book covers, musical pipes, and gold coins. In a stark reminder that the wreck of the Mary Rose was a grave, the skeletons of around 200 men were discovered, along with items of clothing such as hats, jerkins and over 250 shoes made of leather. Finally, the wreck contained a skeleton of a young male dog who would have been kept to catch rats on board but who may also have acted as the lucky mascot on this most ill-fated of ships.
The Rosa Mystica Meaning and Prayer – Virgin Mary Story
The story of the Mary ✅ Rosa Mystica also know as the mystical rose, goes back to the first centuries of Christianity. It was in the fifth century when, according to records of the Church, the figure of the rose was a metaphorical sign of the Virgin Mary .
Mary Rose. Built between 1512 and 1514, the Mary Rose was one of the finest vessels of Henry VIII's navy. On 19 July 1545, under the command of Sir George Carew, and watched by the king and by Lady Carew, she sailed from Portsmouth to join in an engagement with the French fleet. Not far from the shore, while setting sail, she sank with the loss of hundreds of men, including the vice-admiral. Although not in deep water, attempts to salvage her failed. But the Mary Rose Trust, founded in 1979 with the support of the prince of Wales, succeeded in recovering the hull on 11 October 1982. It is now on public exhibition at Portsmouth.
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Completed in Portsmouth in 1512 on the orders of King Henry VIII, Mary Rose saw three decades of service in the English navy until its own retrofitted design spelled its doom.
Illustration by Tony Bryan from NVG 142 Tudor Warships (2) Osprey Publishing Ltd.
The English navy under Henry VIII was a force in transition, and perhaps nothing better speaks to that transition than the carrack Mary Rose—ironically because it sank. Rediscovered in 1971 and raised in 1982, a restored section of the ship is the centerpiece of a purpose-built museum in Portsmouth, England.
When Henry became king in 1509, he ordered the construction of two carracks, Mary Rose and Peter Pomegranate. Completed in Portsmouth in 1512, Mary Rose displaced 400 tons and was about 105 feet long with a 38-foot beam. Its typical 400-man crew included some 200 soldiers and 30 gunners. In its first engagement, off Brest on Aug. 10, 1512, Mary Rose, as Lord High Admiral Sir Edward Howard’s flagship, brought down the mainmast of the French flagship Grande Louise, which withdrew and left the English to win the day.
The man-of-war was a relatively new concept, and ship design was still evolving to accommodate cannons. In 1536 Mary Rose underwent a major refit to accommodate an increased armament, raised from 42 heavy cannons, including five bronze muzzle-loaders, and two swivel guns to 30 heavies—13 of them bronze—and 66 swivels. This raised its displacement to 700 tons. Though more of a gunship with the refit, Mary Rose retained longbows, grappling hooks and other close-quarters weapons, as well as netting across the upper deck to thwart enemy boarding attempts.
After the refit Mary Rose saw its next major action on July 19, 1545, when a French invasion fleet entered the Solent channel off the Isle of Wight. As the English sortied from Portsmouth to engage the enemy, it is thought a sudden gust of wind heeled Mary Rose, sending seawater gushing through its gun ports, which the inexperienced crew had left open. Mary Rose foundered in minutes, taking Vice Adm. Sir George Carew and almost all of his men down with it. Many died when trapped beneath the anti-boarding netting. MH
History of Mary Rose Mission
The Mary Rose Mission was founded on November 18, 1995 as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. The original location of the mission was an old factory building in Cincinnati, OH where the members gathered to pray for direction for a ministry through the intercession of our Blessed Mother. In November of 1999, the MRM opened a hospice house on Russell St. in Covington, KY where an all volunteer staff began a ministry of caring for the terminally ill who had no one else to care for them. These people had their physical and spiritual needs attended to and numerous conversions were witnessed. The hospice house closed its doors in 2008 when the services were no longer needed as local Catholic hospitals established their own hospices.
Only months after the Russell Street home opened, MRM began its mission in Grenada, West Indies at the request of Father Ed Conlon, a local retired priest working as a missionary in that country. Under the direction of the Bishop of Grenada, the MRM has assisted in building an addition to the St. Martin De Porres Home for the Aged, as well as assisting in restoring Catholic schools and building a Carmelite convent. The greatest challenge in Grenada was the establishment of a Catholic radio station on the island. Through the generosity of the Bishop of Grenada, the mission occupies and maintains a diocesan building which serves as a lodging facility for local missionaries and the local MRM prayer group.
After MRM closed its hospice house, it was time once again to ask for guidance and direction from our Blessed Mother. After much prayer and research, the need was discovered for a soup kitchen in Florence, KY. Information gathered from local agencies and other sources indicated a number of children who were so distracted by their hunger that it was difficult for them to keep up with their school work and their personal development was also negatively affected. In an effort to help these children and their families, the MRM began the search for the perfect location.
In February of 2011, the MRM purchased a building at 272 Main Street in the heart of Florence and began working on opening the kitchen. Once we realized that the opening would not happen immediately, we began collecting non-perishable food items in hopes of delivering food to the clients whom we would eventually be serving.
On Friday March 9th, 2012 the staff gathered to bag the collected groceries for delivery on Saturday March 10th. When the sorting was complete, we had filled 67 bags with groceries to be delivered, thanks to the generosity of others. The next day, we delivered those bags of groceries to families who were hungry. The smiles on their faces reflected their appreciation for the items we were able to provide. Grocery delivery continued twice a month until the kitchen doors opened to serve meals.
While we were delivering groceries, renovation continued on the building on Main Street in order to create a commercial kitchen and dining room. To close the financial gap, an anonymous donation to the MRM in the amount of $150,000 made it possible to move ahead with the renovation. Construction was completed in early 2013 and we began serving meals in March that year.
Since March 24, 2013, we have served a hot evening meal every Saturday and Sunday evening. After nearly 6 months of service, we were able to open for Wednesday evening meals also. We were able to find grants and solicit funds to expand our refrigeration/freezer units. Next, we procured enough money to “bump out” the side of our building with a larger walk-in refrigerator/freezer unit. With the addition of the storage space for cold food, we were able to add service on Thursday evenings. After increasing our volunteer base and refining our service guidelines, we were able to open on Tuesday evenings at the beginning of 2015. On the fifth anniversary of our opening day, March 24, 2018, we finally reached our goal of being open seven days a week, 365 days a year!
One of the many high points during this journey happened during the frigid months of January and February of 2014. Our guests were cold, but our generous volunteers and community members donated enough money to allow us to house some of our guests in a local motel. While this solution wasn’t long term it made us realize the need for cold shelter in our community. We are currently working to find a way to serve those who need shelter during the cold winters.
We ask you to pray for the Mary Rose Mission as we strive “to love as God loves.”
1545: Who Sank the Mary Rose?
In the early evening on July 19, 1545, as she turned away from a French fleet gathered in the Solent, the narrow channel between the Isle of Wight and the English mainland harbors of Portsmouth and Southampton, the Mary Rose, one of Henry VIII‘s largest and most powerful warships, heeled to starboard in a gust of wind and promptly sank.
The ship, a carrack, carried four masts with nine or ten square-rigged and lateen sails. She carried more than 90 guns, large and small. The ship, rebuilt in 1536, added tall, three-level fore and aft castles to accommodate more than 500 ship handlers, archers and soldiers who boarded enemy vessels in close combat. These structures, and new great guns, added about 200 tons to the ship’s original 500-ton displacement. Gun ports cut into the hull for large weapons created openings only 16 inches above the waterline when fully laden. The only contemporary illustration of Mary Rose (without realistic perspective), shows the immense castles, with the forecastle extending well beyond the hull’s stem. Likely dimensions indicate the hull at the waterline was about 130 ft. in length, with a beam of about 39 ft. Castles added another 25 ft or so to the length overall, not counting the bowsprit. To an untrained eye, the ship looks dangerously top heavy, with parlous balance. The ship had served more than 20 years before its refit without incident, but apparently saw little action until war with France in 1544. French King Francis I assembled a large fleet to attack the Isle of Wight and southern England in retaliation for Henry’s capture of Boulogne that year.
Mary Rose vanished in seconds, taking most of her crew with her. Only her masts and crow’s nests remained above the surface, and only about 40 men survived. Henry VIII saw it all from Portsmouth. Salvage efforts and inquiries quickly followed, but failed. The Mary Rose remained on the sea floor, slowly vanishing from view and largely undisturbed
In 1971, diving historian Alexander McKee rediscovered the ship after searching for several years. Remarkably, a team of maritime archeologists, including author Peter Marsden, long affiliated with the ship, its recovery and restoration, found that silt covered about a third of the ship’s hull, preserving it erosion and rot.
Marsden devotes most of this wonderful book, beautifully illustrated with many color photos and excellent graphics, to the technical aspects of Mary Rose, its recovery, itself remarkable, and its preservation. Today, after decades of careful treatment, about a third of the original structure consisting of the starboard hull and amidships, has been fully preserved. Both fore and stern castle are gone, long destroyed with the port hull because they were not buried in silt.
Just as remarkable, however, are thousands of artifacts that survived – guns and carriages, small arms including long bows, leather and some fabric clothing, shoes, tools, tackle, dinner plates and eating utensils, navigation instruments, storage trunks and barrels, and the skeleton of the ship’s dog! In addition, excavation yielded 179 human skeletons, many nearly complete. Sophisticate forensic analysis has provided astonishing evidence about the crew, men who hailed from Europe and Africa as well as England. From these data, Marsden reconstructs the lives and last moments of soldiers, archers and ordinary seamen, deck by deck, in Tudor England’s Navy Royal.
As the title suggests, however, Marsden’s basic purpose is to determine who was responsible for the loss of Mary Rose. Research has revealed the sequence of events that destroyed the ship, but why did this happen? Marsden is quite clear the fault lies with Henry VIII himself. The king failed to understand the ship’s limited capabilities. The Mary Rose was built for close combat, for archers with longbows and soldiers who boarded enemy vessels for hand to hand fighting. In the 17 th century, new ship designs, known as ships of the line (such as Admiral Nelson’s Trafalgar flagship, HMS Victory, in drydock just steps from the Mary Rose Museum) evolved. Ships of the line were sleek, efficient and stable, built for great gun engagements with broadsides at some distance. Henry’s failure to adapt the carrack for this transition cost the lives of about 500 of his subjects.
Peter Marsden, 1545: Who Sank the Mary Rose? Seaforth Publishing, Barnsley, U.K. (2019 (Harbound))
Reviewed by Dr. John R. Satterfield. Dr. Satterfield teaches military history and business. He served as an ASW intelligence officer in a USNR maritime patrol squadron. He recently contributed to From Across the Sea: North Americans in Nelson’s Navy, available from Helion & Company, Warwick, UK.
Facts about Mary Rose 9: the construction
In 1510, the construction of Mary Rose was started in Portsmouth. In July 1511, it was launched on the sea. The decking, rigging and armaments were fitted on Mary Rose after being towed in London.
Facts about Mary Rose 10: equipments and details
Mary Rose was equipped with streamers, banners and flags. The structural details of the ship enabled it to arm, stock and sail on the sea.
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Henry’s foreign policy and the navy
Henry’s foreign policy in the first twenty years of his reign focused principally on the attempt to recover French territories lost during the Hundred Years War and thus to enhance his princely reputation by glory and prestige won in war. His preparations for a declaration of war on France included the build-up of naval strength. Between 1509 and 1512 Henry ordered four new ships to be built, including the Mary Rose (1511) and acquired a further six, five of them through purchase. While his father Henry VII had initiated the improvement of English capability at sea, it was the new king who put in place the systems required to support a standing navy, including the development of Portsmouth into a great naval base.
The Mary Rose played her part in operations against the French in 1512, clearing the English Channel of French ships and blockading the post of Brest. The Treaty of London of 1518 ushered in a period of relative peace and shifting diplomacy. However, in the years following Henry’s break with the pope in 1533, England found itself threatened with invasion by the two great Catholic powers of Europe: France, under Francis I, and the Holy Roman Empire, under Charles V.
This period was marked by renewed rearmament and military strengthening as Henry planned to resist the invasion. He had a line of defensive castles built along the south coast from the estuary of the river Thames to Milford Haven in south Wales, bought and refitted ships and increased the manufacture of guns. The Mary Rose was refitted around 1536 and adapted to accommodate a larger number of large guns, including this bronze cannon, whose inscription proclaiming Henry’s independence from Rome is a reminder of one of the root causes of the conflict in which its ship was lost.
A brief history of the English rose
From Cleopatra's rose-petal-adorned boudoir to the famous Tudor Rose, this symbolic flower has for countless centuries dominated poetry, art, literature and religion. Here, Oxford academic Nicola Harrison explores its history and significance
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Published: July 14, 2020 at 2:40 pm
From Greek and Roman times to the present day, the rose has been a timeless symbol of beauty, transience and love. The rose’s romantic connections are thought to originate from Egypt, where Cleopatra famously carpeted the floor of her boudoir with mounds of rose petals to seduce Mark Antony.
In courtly love, for example, the rose was the iconic symbol of the beloved lady – or of the prize of her love itself – a personification that found its most exquisite representation in the 13th-century French epic poem Le Roman de La Rose, a medieval illustrated allegory that documents the art of chivalric love and its many facets. Written by Guillaume de Lorris, it was completed 40 years later by Jean de Meun.
The Virgin Mary
In medieval devotional verse (religious verse devoted to subjects such as Jesus Christ), the Virgin Mary is often referred to as a “rose without thorns”, since she was free of original sin. In fact, the five petals of the wild rose are often equated with the five joys of Mary (the five key moments that gave Mary joy, which were the Annunciation, the Nativity, the Resurrection, the Ascension and the Assumption) and the five letters in her full name, Maria.
At this time, the rose as the queen of flowers was a privileged symbol for Mary, as seen in this lyric dated 1420:
There is no rose of such virtue
As is the rose that bare Jesu
For in this rose contained was
Heaven and earth in little space
Medieval art often depicts the Virgin Mary in an enclosed rose garden – a representation of Eden, but also a place where courtly lovers could retire. The Christmas rose – a hardy white flower with five petals that blooms at Christmas time – is a symbol of the Nativity and appears in medieval carols and seasonal hymns to the Virgin.
It is said that the rose’s thorny stems were twined around Christ’s head during his Passion, and its red flowers are a symbol both of worldly love and of martyrdom, which is possibly why they have, over time, become associated with St Valentine’s Day.
From the 12th century, rose imagery exploded across Europe with the spread of religious devotion to Mary. The medieval rose, laden with Christian symbolism of love and sacrifice, was now such a strong religious idea that it bloomed into architecture and became incorporated into the building of Gothic churches in the form of rose windows.
The rose continued to be revered into the 13th century, where we have the major appearance of the rosary (Latin: rosarium), a set of prayer beads created as a garland of roses.
The Christian tradition took the rose as representative of the Virgin, and secular literature celebrated the rose as a symbol of earthly love and beauty, so it is little surprise that the canny queen Elizabeth I – fully aware of the rose’s associations with virginity – took this flower as her emblem. In so doing she tied the strands of courtly love and holy virginity together in her own queenly identity.
In portraits of Elizabeth I we sometimes also see the white eglantine, known as the queen’s rose. This was used to symbolise the queen’s chastity and make associations between the queen of England and the queen of heaven (the Virgin Mary).
The Tudor Rose
The rose is also part of the heraldic imagery of the kings and queens of England. The liveries of the houses of York and Lancaster, for example, were represented by white and red roses respectively, and the civil war that broke out between these two houses between 1455 and 1485 was later termed the Wars of the Roses.
In Henry VI Part I Act II Scene IV, Shakespeare depicts a small gathering of lords plucking different coloured roses from the Temple-garden as a way of choosing sides in the upcoming conflict. The Earl of Warwick, who chooses a white rose, remarks:
And here I prophesy: this brawl today,
Grown to this faction in the Temple garden,
Shall send, between the Red Rose and the White,
A thousand souls to death and deadly night.
Interestingly, the term ‘the Wars of the Roses’ was only used after 1829 when Sir Walter Scott referred to that conflict as such in his novel, Anne of Geierstein.
The Wars of the Roses ended with the clever and strategic Henry VII being crowned king of England. In marrying Elizabeth of York in 1486 he combined two dynasties and two roses, giving birth to the famous Tudor Rose, which was both white and red. This became known as “the flower of England”, and is today the country’s national flower.
The ancient world
Further back in time, we find the same veneration and symbolism surrounding the rose, with a strong emphasis on its powers of seduction and associations with mortality.
The scent of roses permeated the ancient world, where petals were scattered across the floor, the bed or the dinner table. Rose oil was distilled for use as a perfume, breath sweetener or medicine, and rose water was popular for cosmetic use and in food. The Romans offered roses to statues of the gods and used roses to wreathe tombs.
The rose was sacred to Venus, the Roman goddess of love, and to her Greek equivalent, Aphrodite. Botticelli’s famous 15th-century painting The Birth of Venus shows the goddess on her scallop shell, blown in by Zephyrus, being showered in pale pink roses.
The Greek poet Sappho, meanwhile, praises the flower in a poem entitled Song of the Rose, which has been attributed to her:
If Zeus chose us a King of the flowers in his mirth,
He would call to the rose, and would royally crown it
For the rose, ho, the rose! is the grace of the earth,
Is the light of the plants that are growing upon it!
The rose had other more complex symbolism for the Romans, however. The Rosalia was a Roman feast to remember the dead in which roses played a significant part, and the Roman custom of hanging a rose overhead (or painting or carving one on the ceiling) in confidential meetings was a reminder that nothing that was discussed could be repeated outside the room where the meeting had taken place. The term sub rosa is today used to describe such meetings and means ‘under the rose’. Henry VIII made this practice more widespread, and the carving of roses into ceilings is a design which we still see today.
Across the centuries the rose retained its privileged position as queen of flowers, gaining new varieties and meanings through the centuries. We find the Cavalier poet Richard Lovelace (1617–57) calling upon the rose to adorn his lover’s chamber in much the way that Cleopatra adorned hers many centuries earlier:
Rosie is her Bower,
Her floore is all this Flower
Her Bed a Rosie nest,
By a Bed of Roses prest.
Adored by the Romantics and particularly by the Victorians, who created a complex language of flowers, new symbolism attached itself in ever more layers to the different colours and styles of roses. It was the red rose, however, that pushed ahead of the rest to become a towering symbol of beauty, transience and sexual love. One of the nation’s best-loved and most-quoted poems is A Red, Red Rose by the Scottish poet Robert Burns (1759–96), written in 1794:
O, my luve is like a red, red rose,
That’s newly sprung in June.
Another of the most famous rose poems in the English language, Go, Lovely Rose, was written by the rather unwholesome poet and politician Edmund Waller (1606–87) and later set to music by composer Roger Quilter. It was written in a frenzy of unrequited longing for Lady Dorothy Sidney, a beautiful and very clever young woman of 18.
Waller was the originator of the failed Waller’s Plot of 1643 – to seize London for Charles I – in which he was shown to be a coward after betraying his friends and brother-in-law to save his own neck. After the death of his first wife, Waller became romantically obsessed with Lady Dorothy Sidney. She rejected his advances and in 1639 married Henry Spencer, later to become the Earl of Sunderland. This struck such a blow to Waller’s heart that he went insane for a short period of time. Go, Lovely Rose was most likely addressed to Lady Dorothy during this period of infatuation on one of numerous visits to her house, when she would probably have refused to see him. Much later in life Waller visited Lady Dorothy again, and she asked him: “When, Mr Waller, will you write such fine verses upon me again?” And he replied: “O Madam, when your ladyship is as young again.”
Waller’s poem uses the idea of the rose as a love messenger. The poet speaks directly to it, as if to a person, and commands the flower to go to his beloved, speak to her and then die in her hands, thus reminding her of how fragile beauty is, how brief life is, and that beauty unseen is worthless. It is a most elegant version of the ‘gather ye rosebuds while ye may’ theme, meaning live life for now and live it to the full, which comes from a line in the poem To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time by Cavalier poet Robert Herrick (1591–1674). The stylishly romantic understatement in Go, Lovely Rose would have appealed greatly to Quilter’s musical sensibility, resulting in one of the most beautiful songs ever to be written in English. Indeed, Quilter’s masterpiece is arguably as iconic as Waller’s verse.
Roger Quilter (1877–1953) was a composer much taken with roses, and one who was drawn to the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods in his choice of poetry adaptations. He was a great fan of Shakespeare’s songs, for example, and set all of the words he chose with exquisite care.
At heart a romantic, Quilter set to music at least five poems that reference the rose: the renowned Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal, a poem by Tennyson from The Princess, A Medley (1847) A Last Year’s Rose (William Henley 1849–1903) The Time of Roses (Thomas Hood 1799–1845) Damask Roses (a lovely conceit on lips and roses written by an anonymous Elizabethan poet) and arguably the composer’s most famous song, Go, Lovely Rose:
Go, lovely Rose –
Tell her that wastes her time and me,
That now she knows,
When I resemble her to thee,
How sweet and fair she seems to be.
Tell her that’s young,
And shuns to have her graces spied,
That hadst thou sprung,
In deserts, where no men abide,
Thou must have uncommended died.
Small is the worth,
Of beauty from the light retired:
Bid her come forth,
Suffer herself to be desired,
And not blush so to be admired.
Then die – that she,
The common fate of all things rare,
May read in thee
How small a part of time they share,
That are so wondrous sweet and fair!
Today the red rose has become an emblem of romantic love to the point of cliché, while we still see the white rose, along with the lily, as a symbol of innocence, grace and purity. Yet, coiled within the lovely, scented petals of this adored flower are centuries of fascinating meaning. For, even in the cynical 21st century, roses continue to delight our senses whenever we come across them – in poetry, art, song, or twined around a trellis in the garden.
Author and University of Oxford lecturer Nicola Harrison specialises in the interpretation of song. Her series of books The Wordsmith’s Guide to English Song (Compton, 2016) explores the literary, historical, mythological and artistic background to the poetry set to music by two British composers, Roger Quilter and Ivor Gurney.
To find out more about Nicola, visit www.nicolaharrison.co.uk
This article was first published by HistoryExtra in 2016
Mary Rose - History
Who is Mary Rose?
Born in 1916, Mary Rose Durfee grew up on a Hops Farm in Waterville, NY. Her youngest sister, Alice Gorman, died in 2002 and established The Gorman Foundation with a bequest from her estate.
Mary Rose owned and operated a small diner in Oneida during the 1950s and 60s and although she worked 14-hour days with almost no time off, she could not afford preventive medical or dental care. She made just enough money to get by which is exactly like the men and women we hope to serve at The Mary Rose Clinic.
Mary Rose continues to be very active in her community. In addition to being the inspiration for the free clinic, she is also an ardent advocate of Central New York’s hops industry and a supporter of its history within New York’s agricultural landscape. In recognition of her efforts, Madison County Historical Society crowned her their very first Hops Queen at their annual Hops Fest Celebration in 2003.
Ms. Durfee is also a published author in books, newspapers and periodicals, a talent which was undiscovered until she was 80 years old. She is now approaching 101 years old and still writing books.
The Mary Rose Clinic was co-created by Dr. Martyn and The Gorman Foundation.
PLEASE NOTE: The Mary Rose Clinic CANNOT treat patients for:
-Workers Compensation Claims
-No Fault Injury Claims
-Other Legal Issues
THE CLINIC WILL BE CLOSED THE FOLLOWING DATES:
November 24, & 25, 2021 for the Thanksgiving Holiday.
Every Wednesday and Thursday during the clinic hours we have an insurance navigator present who can help you enroll in health insurance.
Not What You Thought You Knew
In this episode, we're going back to the year 1545. Henry VIII is king, married to his sixth and final wife Catherine Parr, and off the coast of Portsmouth with July wind in their sails lies a gigantic french fleet 150 warships, 25 war galleys, and over 30,000 troops have been brought to the Solent their mission to capture Portsmouth and conquer England.
Read more about: Kings and Queens
Who was Henry VIII's most unfortunate wife?
From the battlements of south sea castle, King Henry stands watching as his tiny naval defense force. Only 80 ships face down this invading fleet. Leading the defense of England is the huge imposing British warship the Mary Rose. With almost 100 guns over 200 sailors and nearly 200 soldiers on board, the Mary Rose was an incredibly imposing sight but this was to be her last fight and before the battle had even really got underway King Henry was brought terrible news. His famous warship had been sunk blown over by an unexpected gust of wind and pulled under by the water that flooded into her open gunports.
The lives of Henry VII and Henry VIII: Never the twain shall meet
We may never know the circumstances that led to the sinking of this magnificent ship but rumours from the British sailors and battle commanders blamed an insubordinate crew, poor sailing negligence or just pure dumb luck. The French, of course, claimed it as a victory for their own guns but one thing is sure ever since her rediscovery and raising from the seafloor in 1982, the Mary Rose has captivated us.
In early 2020, analysis on the remains of eight sailors who drowned on the Mary Rose yielded some astonishing results on our perceptions of the people of Tudor England. In speaking to Dr. Alex Hildred and Dr. Onyeka Nubia, we’ll hear that while the study helps to paint a new picture of the historic population of southern port towns we now know that this wasn’t unique.
Read more about: British History
Black Britons who shaped history
Hosted by historian, author, and broadcaster Dr. Fern Riddell, HISTORY's Not What You Thought You Knew explores some under-celebrated characters from history and reveals not just their incredible story but also why they’re so important for our view of what history looked like.
This episode of Not What You Thought You Knew was presented by Dr. Fern Riddell and produced by Kim Sergeant, Peter Ross, and Sam Pearson.