Thoughts on White Rose Day by Charles A. Coulombe



June 10, amongst English-speaking Catholics, was long called White Rose Day.  It was so-called because on this day was born in 1688 the son of the soon-to-be overthrown King James II of England (and VII of Scotland), James Francis Edward Stuart, the Prince of Wales. Indeed, the young man’s arrival, assuring as it did a Catholic succession to the thrones of the Three Kingdoms, precipitated his father’s overthrow. When the senior James died in exile, his son was hailed by their supporters, the Jacobites, as King James III and VIII – and called by his detractors, the Whigs, the “Old Pretender.” This day even now is celebrated by the small band of Jacobites in honour of the House of Stuart, whom they still regard as the rightful inheritors. We shall speak more of them momentarily.

To-day, however, June 10, 2016 shall go down in history as the day when Their Lordships and Ladyships, the Justices of Her Majesty’s Supreme Court for Canada, legalised certain sorts of bestiality. Predictably, there was outrage by all sorts of folk against this decision – and I for one would not presume to dissent from the outrage. But disgusting as it is, this sentence is merely yet another signpost on the downward trail our masters in all the countries of the West have been taking us down for decades, and to the general direction of which – while we may squawk at this or that particular element of it – most of us do not really object. “If it feels good, do it” is the motto of our masters as well as of ourselves, and we really should expect no more out of our leadership. We tolerate in our everyday life a level of loathsomeness that appears unequalled since the days of the Ottomans. White Rose Day stands in stinging contradiction to all we do and all we are.

First, let’s look at the White Rose itself, as a symbol beyond attachment to a single political party at a given moment in time of a certain country’s history. I have to admit that the rose is my favourite flower, and not just because I live near Pasadena and its famed Tournament of Roses – complete with parade and Rose bowl. Nor am I alone in this, as shown by the popularity of rose gardens, of which locally we have a plethora – the Huntington Gardens, Exposition Park, and – of course, Rose Hills Cemetery, to name a few. Indeed, there are few public gardens anywhere that do not boast rose gardens.


Traditionally, white roses symbolised purity, red roses passion, and yellow roses friendship and devotion.  In time, the rose came especially to be associated with the Virgin Mary, the “Mystical Rose.” Certainly the most famous devotion to her is the Rosary, and the whole of St. Louis Marie de Montfort’s book on it, the Secret of the Rosary, is an extended metaphor using roses. The rose was of course the flower employed by Our Lady at Guadalupe.

Various factions employed the flower as a party symbol at different times in Medieval Europe, the pro-Imperial Ghibellines (like Dante) preferring the white rose, and the pro-Papal Guelphs the red. But it was in England that this use of the flower truly came into its own, when the main line of the House of Plantagenet, that had given the realm such folk as Henry II and Richard the Lion Heart (patron of Robin Hood), died out. This left the succession to the throne in dispute between the related Houses of York and Lancaster. At a famous meeting between the heads of the two clans in the rose garden of London’s Inner Temple, the white rose became the symbol of York, and the red of Lancaster – thus the name of the “Wars   of the Roses” for the resulting civil war. In the course of that struggle the saintly Henry VI was deposed in favour of Edward IV, whose recently rehabilitated and reburied brother Richard III was then in turn defeated and killed by Henry Tudor, known ever after as Henry VII. He then invented the Tudor Rose, since then the flower badge of England as well as of the House of Tudor. There were deeds of gallantry and horror on both sides, and characters like Warwick the Kingmaker. But when the smoke had cleared and the Tudors were firmly set upon the throne, the stage was set for the “Reformation.” Other than Queen Katherine of Aragon and Queen Mary I, there is little to esteem among the Tudors.

The death of Mary’s sister – the vile Elizabeth I – gave the throne to her cousin, James VI of Scotland. His mother, Mary Queen of Scots, had a claim to the English throne herself, and had been a devout Catholic – both of which led to her murder by Elizabeth while James was yet an infant. I must admit that I am not much of a fan of James; but his mother was heiress of the Stuarts who had been Kings of Scots since 1371, High Stewards of Scotland (hence the name) since 1150 – allies of Robert the Bruce and Sir William Wallace – and Norman/Breton lords before that. During the course of their history, various younger sons established branches of the family as independent clans, who often fought alongside the Royal Stuarts before and after their accession to the English throne.


The White Rose – for all that Yorkshire is still called the white rose and Lancashire the red rose countries – will ever, in British history, be most associated with the House of Stuart. Well it should be. For if James can never be the figure of Romance that his mother was, his son, Charles I, surely is. The martyred “White King,” who tried to restore the Church of England to a more Catholic stance and negotiated with the Holy See for reunion, lost throne and life in the “Wars of the Three Kingdoms” against truly venomous foes. His adherents, the “Cavaliers,” were about as romantic a set of folk as fighters can be – one even speaks of the “Cavalier Poets,” and in religion, the “Caroline Divines.” In the latter sphere, Charles is considered a saint by many in Great Britain and America (more of the latter in a moment).

Although the Restoration brought Charles son, Charles II, back to the throne, as noted his younger son, James II was chased back off of it, culminating in the Battle of the Boyne. When he died, and James III succeeded him, the stage was set for the Jacobite Risings against the usurping House of Hanover and their attendant Whig Oligarchy; on their hats, the Jacobites wore the White Cockade, symbolic of the flower.  In 1715 and 1719, James and his followers in England and Scotland tried unsuccessfully to restore him to his three thrones. His son, the gallant Bonnie Prince Charlie, tried again in 1745, and came closest to success. But the defeat at Culloden ended that last attempt, and the Bonnie Prince was reduced by privation and drink to a shadow of himself, for all that his remaining followers called him Charles III after his father died in 1766. He died after 22 years on his phantom throne (and having refused the offer of the Crown of America from the Continental Congress), to be succeeded by his younger brother, Cardinal York – Henry IX. When he died in 1807, he was buried with his brother and father at St. Peter’s in the Vatican (you may see their monument and tomb to-day). It seemed that the cause of the White Rose was dead, for all that their rival cousin, George III, seemed to want to restore their kind of Monarchy without them – a desire frustrated by the defeat in the American Revolution. It was perhaps fitting that he gave a pension to Henry, thus in a sense being reconciled.

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But Jacobitism had produced a wealth of songs – It Was All For Our Rightful King, The Skye Boat Song, Wha’ll Be King But Charlie, Will Ye No Come Back Again, and countless others. The national identities of the Celtic fringe – of Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and Cornwall – were all bound up with the Stuarts, as were both Catholicism and High Anglicanism throughout the Isles – and indeed, the origins of the Tory party. The early 19th century’s Romanticism – especially in the person of Sir Walter Scott – renewed interest in the Jacobite cause. The nascent Anglo-Catholic Movement restored the cultus of Charles I, while the handful of visionary politicians dubbed “Young England” called for a renewed Monarchy along the lines George III had advocated. Similar impulses emerged from the currents of the “Celtic Twilight” and “Merrie England.” Not too surprisingly, actual Neo-Jacobitism appeared in the form of such organisations as the Order of the White Rose, and lay at the root of renewed Scots, Cornish, and Welsh nationalism, all of it spurred by such men as Lord Ashburnham and Henry Jenner. These were echoed in America, where branches of the Society of King Charles the Martyr and the Order of the White Rose were imported and led by folk like the architect and writer Ralph Adams Cram and the inimitable Isabella Stewart Gardner (who hosted their meetings at her Boston mansion, Fenway Court). All of this may have failed to restore the Stuarts to their British and American thrones, but it certainly produced and produces great art – and there are still Jacobites of various sorts to-day.

The White Cockade flowered in other parts of Europe, however – wherever the traditional altar and throne were under attack by godless revolution. In France, the followers of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette adopted the white cockade; in the Vendee and elsewhere they proudly wore it – as did the Italian opponents of the Jacobins. The 19th century saw the Latin American Royalists, Portuguese Miguelistas, and the Spanish Carlists don the white, as did the French Legitimists. In the 20th century, the Russian, Finnish, and Hungarian opponents of Communism were called the Whites – which is why Finland’s first President, Carl von Mannerheim, named that country’s highest decoration the “Order of the White Rose.” The White Rose was also taken as a symbol by much of the German resistance to Hitler (and particularly one small group of students). To-day it is the name of an influential Catholic Monarchist periodical in Vienna. Sadly, it must be admitted that most of these movements were defeated by often unspeakable foes.


So, on this White Rose Day, 2016, just what does the flower mean? It means – to me at any rate – all those persons and places we have looked at bound together. It means Bl. Charlemagne and Bl. Charles of Austria, St. Louis and Bl. Constantine XI, King Arthur and King Alfred. It means Montrose and Bonnie Dundee, El Cid and St. Jeanne d’Arc – that is, gallant leaders who were willing to die with their men for a glorious cause. It means the Sacred Heart and the Precious Blood. It means Chivalry and the Holy Grail. That is what the White Rose means.

Impractical? Romantic? Perhaps. But the alternative that dominates the world to-day is not even evil of the calibre of Cromwell, Hitler, or Stalin. It is judges who legalise bestiality, and presidents who would deprive students of their lunches if their schools will not allow boys into girls’ restrooms. In a word, the White Rose stands in our time against the banal and disgusting for all that is good and clean and splendid. Let us take this day then, to honour that which the world despises.


Charles A. Coulombe

For more information about Mr. Coulombe


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