Bourbon Rose: The Prequel

Sometimes I wonder what people were thinking when they spilled words onto paper, then sent them off to be published as though none of it matters.

I refer to Bertram Park’s book, ‘The World of Roses’ (1962). Among other nonsense, he has ‘La Rose à Quatres Saisons’, bred in the 19th century, identified as Rosa bifera. Not! And he argued that the Rosa centifolia of Pliny the Elder could only be the same plant known by that name today. Never mind that writers of the 16th and 17th centuries distinguished the Great Dutch rose as ‘Hollandica’ and ‘Bativica’.

He wrote, “Could the Dutch have had some fore-knowledge of artificial hybridization? It is possible, though very improbable (because the Cabbage Rose was practically sterile in its later development).” Apparently he was unaware of what the Dutch were accomplishing in the vegetable gardens around the same time.

I don’t know what to say about his notion that Romans and Phoenicians were carried Rosa rubra to Europe a little after R. centifolia. Funny. I thought Rome was in Europe.

BTW: I ordered a copy of the book because it has lots of color pictures that might be useful.

Then there is an article I’ve had on my web page for a long while: ‘Tea-Scented Roses A Survey’ by Arthur Wyatt. It contains some valuable information, including a note on John Kennedy’s trips to France to deliver roses to Empress Josephine in 1803 and 1811. This was part of his implication that the English were doing all the rose collecting, then passing them along to the French and other peoples.

"In those days, when it took almost as many weeks as it now takes in flying hours to reach England from the Far East, it was often the practice to off-load plants in transit from China to England at the Calcutta Botanic Garden as a half-way house for recovery during the long voyage. This practice led the French horticulturists to assume that the plants had actually originated in India and not China. It also confused some English botanists, too, so that to this day, the class of roses which we term the Chinas are referred to in France and Germany as ‘Bengales’, while the whole botanical Section which includes the Chinas, Tea-scented and Hybrid Teas was given the name INDICAE. "

We may disagree about the source of confusion. Regarding the source of the Tea-scented rose received by the Humes, Wyatt claimed that it came from “the East India Company’s inspector of tea, John Reeves (1778-1856)”. Sadly, Wyatt neglected to check the dates. Reeves went to Canton in 1812, and could not have been involved with the shipment of roses in 1812. And, why was the “East India Company” headquartered in Canton, China?

Furthermore, I have found that the name Rosa bengalensis was used in France by Saint Germaine in 1784. He cited Jussieux as authority for the name, but I have not yet found an earlier source, or a description. I don’t know how this name could have been influenced by anything going on in England.

Then there is the fact that Henri Bernardin de Saint-Pierre sent a letter from Mauritius in 1769 regarding roses. He saw, “among others a small species from China, which flowers all year round.” And just two years earlier, Joseph-François Charpentier de Cossigny took a voyage to Bengale and sent to Mauritius a wide assortment of plants, including:
Rosiers tricolors.
Idem, à fleurs doubles rouges.
Idem, à petites fleurs blanches, doubles, très-odorantes.

These brief descriptions are not enough for precise identifications, but if one of these was the one mentioned by Saint-Pierre, the name “Bengalensis” would be justified, at least temporarily.

And I suspect that when Kennedy returned from France, he took along some other goodies, perhaps some labeled as Bengalensis.

[Back in 1769, would French “rouges” more likely refer to the color of the Old Blush China, or to the Crimson China?]

Finally, I have been looking through an 1855 translation of Pliny the Elder’s list of roses. This is maddening. How can anyone identify Coroniola, the Rose of Autumn, as “Possibly a variety of the Eglantine, the Rosa canina or dog-rose”?

Here’s a note I found, misplaced, then found again.
An Historical Relation of the Kingdom of Chile (1649/1703)
Alonso de Ovalle
The author merely included Roses in a list of plants that had been imported from Europe. The book was first published in 1649, then translated into English and published in 1703.

As I mentioned earlier, Frezier (1716) reported finding wild roses growing in Chile. No doubt these are descended from those introduced from Europe in the 17th century or earlier.

More news on the Nabatean front.
The Nabateans built … I mean, sculpted, Petra, the Rose red city half as old as time. It is not really that old, but it’s still darned impressive. The Nabateans were involved in the spice trade, at a time when “spices” were likely to be regarded as medicines. This alters my thinking a bit because the four roses they are known to have raised might have been for trade as well as local use.

In recent years some interesting historical discoveries have been made in that desert area. One surprise is that some of the Bedouins were seafarers. Aquatic caravans?

My most recent dive landed me in 16th century England when Henry Viii split with Rome. One fact I hadn’t considered was that the monasteries closed, and all the land that had been hoarded by the Church for centuries (?) reverted to the crown to be redistributed in ways that benefited Henry. Hmm.

I then took a step back to 15th century Spain, where Queen Isabella and Torquemada made the Holy Inquisition a private Spanish business. Church and Crown divided the property of the convicted heretics. [A really important reason to keep Church and State well separated.] The always faithful Torque-boy was an ex-Jew who had a major grudge against his former people. With his encouragement, Isabella (and Ferdinand?) proclaimed that all Jews must convert or get out of the country. A whole lot of property got sold off at bargain basement rates. That was in 1492, and the Jews had four months to be ready.

Muslims were not in danger because their peace treaty with The Crown promised they would be left to their own religious practice. Of course the treaty was violated, and in 1502 the royals ordered all Muslims to convert or leave.

These dates seem relevant because Mondardes (1540) wrote that “among us” knowledge of Rosa Alexandrina was gained around 30 years earlier. That doesn’t line up exactly, but it is clear that there was a lot of real estate rearrangement going on in that period. Likewise in England. And in Germany where Luther’s followers were on the march. I don’t have much info on Erasmus and the Humanists in Italy.

I did not know that Isabella and Henry Vii were cousins. In fact, she had more Lancaster “blood”. Nor did I know that her daughter, Catherine, was previously married to Arthur Tudor. He died, and Henry VIII jumped at the chance to wed his late brother’s wife. Isabella was opposed to the union.

So, did Henry VIII really split with Rome just to get rid of a wife who could not give him a male heir (they didn’t know about Y chromosomes back then); or was he getting back at Isabella? She built her kingdom and personal wealth by doubling down on her religion. He did it by gutting the monasteries and starting his own church. Take that, ex-mother-in-law.