Thursday, 14 February 2008


“Love is much like a wild rose, beautiful and calm, but willing to draw blood in its defence.” - Mark Overby

The Victorian era was a strange time. On the one hand prudishness ruled the day and on the other secret scandals rocked the nation, with even people of quite high social standing and fame implicated. Piano legs were covered as they were considered to be too suggestive, while wild shows of half naked women were rife, and prostitution (of even young girls) was commonplace. The hypocrisy of Victorian society was perhaps not better exemplified by the royal family of England itself. The widowed queen Victoria in black and perpetually grieving for her husband Albert, had a secret lover in her servant John Brown. Her son, Albert Edawrd, Prince of Wales was womanizer and bon-viveur whose name was rarely out of scandal sheets.

Is it surprising then that such an age developed a highly intricate form of communication for lovers in the form of a “secret” floral code. This is the Victorian Language of Flowers. One could compose a letter by simply arranging blooms in a bouquet and sending it to his or her romantic interest. The flowers were then identified and their meaning divined with the aid of a dictionary and the letter pieced together like a jigsaw puzzle.

Seeing it’s Valentine’s Day, here is the multitude of meanings that the rose can signify in the language of flowers:

Rose (red) - Love ; I love you
Rose (white) - Eternal Love; innocence; heavenly; secrecy and silence
Rose (pink) - Perfect happiness; please believe me
Rose (yellow) - Friendship; jealousy; try to care
Rose (black) - Death
Rose (red and white) - Together; unity
Rose (thornless) - Love at first sight
Rose (single, full bloom) - I love you; I still love you
Rose bud - Beauty and youth; a heart innocent of love
Rose bud (red) - Pure and lovely
Rose bud (white) - Girlhood
Rosebud (moss) - Confessions of love
Roses (bouquet of full bloom) - Gratitude
Roses (garland or crown of) - Beware of virtue; reward of merit; crown ; symbol of superior merit
Roses (musk cluster) - Charming
Rose (tea) - I'll always remember
Rose (cabbage) - Ambassador of love
Rose (Christmas) - Tranquilize my anxiety; anxiety
Rose (damask) - Brilliant complexion
Rose (dark crimson) - Mourning
Rose (hibiscus) - Delicate beauty
Rose leaf - You may hope

As well as fresh bouquets of the appropriate flowers, young women often painted the blooms in delicate watercolours or embroidered them in fine coloured silks, so as to offer their sentiments to their beloved in a more lasting form. Many such fine items of Victoriana are now worth lots of money, even though their true significance may be deciphered by the few.

Victoriana |vikˌtôrēˈanə| plural noun
Articles, esp. collectors' items, from the Victorian period.
• matters or attitudes relating to or characteristic of this period.
ORIGIN late 19th cent.: named after Queen Victoria of Great Britain (1819–1901).

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