8th February. 1989


The first of such talks should be about the Rose. It is not only the name of our Committee and a part of the name of the Badge of the Order, but it plays a significant role in our rituals. We are told that the Rose is the emblem of secrecy and silence. This is not a new idea. It originates in classical mythology when Cupid the Boy God of Love presented Hippocrates with a rose not to reveal the frequent amours of his mother Venus, Goddess of Love. I once read somewhere that innkeepers in Italy in past ages hung a branch of a rosebush outside their doors as a sign that their staff would be discreet about assignations or meetings of conspirators held inside. When I was young the phrase sub rosa was used instead of our modern "off the record". Certain it is that banqueting halls, especially in England, were built with roses sculptured into their ceiling to remind the diners, as someone once put it, that things heard sub rosa (under the rose) and possibly sub vino (under the influence of wine), should not be talked about sub divo (out in the open air).
The Rose was brought to England by the Romans - the rosa canina (the dog rose). The Norman French brought the rosa gallica (the French rose), a red rose which became the emblem of the House of Lancaster. Crossing this French rose with the dog rose produced a white bloom, later adopted as the emblem of the House of York. When Henry Tudor, a Lancastrian, married Elizabeth, Duchess of York and so brought to an end the Wars of the Roses. He superimposed the red rose on the white creating the Tudor Rose as the emblem of a United Kingdom.

When I was in England last year and in Winchester to see the Cathedral. I walked up the hill to the Guildhall to see the large oaken table hanging on the end wall, which is reputed to be the Round Table of King Arthur. Since I recalled that in 1522 Henry VIII painted this table into green and white segments with the names of knights around the rim as part of the decoration for the reception in that hall for the Emperor Charles V. and Henry had painted in the centre an authentic Tudor Rose. I even got a postcard to bring this rose back to our Committee.

The rose also occurs in our ritual as the Rose of Sharon linked with Lily of the Valley. This is a mild misquotation of the first verse in the second canticle of the Song of Solomon, which runs "I am the Rose of Sharon and the Lily of the Valleys". This is one of only two mentions of the rose in the King James Bible. The other in the first verse of Isaiah. Chapter 35, where the desert is said to bloom like the rose. Of course there were no roses in ancient Palestine. In the Hebrew Bible the word is Habusaleth which translates as a bulbous plant. Perhaps a crocus or most likely a narcissus. In the Greek Bible the desert blooms like the lily. And in Solomon the verse begins "I am the blossom of the open spaces".

When Jerome translated the Bible into Latin in the 4th Century he rendered it ego f1os campi (I am the flower of the field). So it is in the Wyclif Bible and today in the Good News Bible. Indeed it is only in the King James Bible and today's Jerusalem Bible that the rose appears at all. Ken McInnes has a theory that the translators of the King James Bible introduced the rose as a. patriotic gesture to remind the reader that the recently adopted Tudor Rose was, not only the badge of a united England, but a symbol of its growing wealth and power.





I was mildly surprised on my return to learn that the Committee while I was away had discussed my love affair with the Tudor Rose and thought that my infatuation sprang from its use in the Crest of the University Chapter. Not so. - The University Chapter Crest was designed by Dick Gillings, a Professor of Mathematics whose great hobby was heraldry. My surprise was for myself because in my 40 years in the Order it had never occurred to me that our Rose was anything other than the Tudor Rose.

Notwithstanding the bud presented to me at my Perfection, and the rose that appears on the tie of the English Supreme Councillor even on our logo. So I thought I had better learn something about the rose. I now know that the rose is a flower with five sepals and five petals broad and somewhat rounded. There are some 200 varieties throughout the world - about 80% in Asia 15% in America and the remaining 5% in Europe. Africa and Australia. The lovely double high-centred sculptured blooms which we so greatly prize are quite modern hybrids.

But all roses are beautiful and the rose has been attached to the culture of almost all civilisations. It figures prominently in their legends, heraldry and religion. It has been the inspiration of poets from Sappho to W B Yeates, Chaucher, Omar Khayyam, Blake and Burns. It is the appropriate symbol of elegance, romance, love and perfection. I think there is no quotation in written English as trite as that of Gertrude Stein “A rose, is a rose, is a rose”. But I had forgotten that the rose is also the emblem of silence, and I must stay my tongue.




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