“Pluck a White Rose...Pluck a Red Rose”: The Origin of the Tudor Rose
Have you heard of the Tudor Rose? It's the red and white double-layered rose that is one of the many symbols of England. This rose is entirely symbolic and never existed in any garden but it went viral as an image; in illumination, wood cuts, architecture, stained glass, and furnishings -- as well as in embroidery. In fact, we still see this Tudor rose all over England today.
About 600 years ago, two branches of the same family fought with each other for the throne of England, and the prize bounced back and forth like a hot potato over several decades. One side of the family, the Lancasters, were represented by red rose -- their cousins and rivals, the Yorks, were represented by the white rose. The last man standing was a member of the Lancaster family: Henry Tudor and, as king, Henry VII (father to the far more famous Henry VIII).
Once king, Henry made a savvy move and married Elizabeth of York, allying the Lancasters and Yorks and cementing his claim to the throne. What was even smarter was the branding campaign: he combined the red Lancasterian rose with the white York rose to create the combination Tudor rose.
In needlework, the red and white rose appears on all types of textiles -- and, as happens in embroidery, it’s interpreted in black work, goldwork, and then in pinks and even yellows. And while the colors evolved, the distinctive double-layered petal shape never changes.
We have one of those rose artifacts in our collection which we have studied and re-created using the same colors, scale, and techniques as in the original. Based on this work, we have a small number of kits which we are putting on our Etsy site if you are also interested in using period techniques to recreate a seventeenth century Tudor Rose.