Jonathan Foyle: Breaking the myth of the ‘Tudor Rose’ at Lincoln!

An excellent and very engaging paper, sponsored by the MSRG as part of our History and Heritage Research Seminar Series, delivered by the award-winning BBC broadcaster, author and Visiting Professor in Conservation at the University of Lincoln:

Jonathan Foyle

Foyle 1

 Jonathan joined us at 4.30-6pm in MB3202 to talk about:

“Flower Power: What Overlooked Floral Symbolism Reveals About The Late Medieval English Monarchy, c.1450-1550”

Floral images like roses, daisies, irises and marigolds are often literally relegated to the margins of late medieval art, as if they served to randomly decorate. But when we look more closely and see the same subjects used consistently in a range of royal works of art including architecture, furniture and manuscripts, then a system of meaning emerges. A three-year study of this language has thrown new light on the political intentions of the later fifteenth-century English monarchy, including revelatory insights on the moment of the ‘Tudor’ accession.

Jonathan opened his speech with an ambitious statement: “You will leave this room with a radically different view on what you have always accepted as part of the ‘historical’ truth and it is, in reality, a myth and a cultural construction influenced by deeper and more complex symbolic meanings.”


Jonathan’s brilliant presentation reminded us of the importance of combining methodologies, approaches and discourses to get an insight into the complex nature of medieval symbols and how they were created, manipulated, adopted and displayed. We found out that what has been sold for centuries as the ‘Tudor Rose’ was in fact a Marian symbol, associated with ideas of charity, chastity and redemption.

Jonathan was right…we left the room having changed our  minds on the Tudors’ adoption and display of the rose as their heraldic symbol, but we also had the chance to reflect on the very nature of ‘historical myths’ more generally!

After all, as historians, this is what we do!

Dr Antonella Liuzzo Scorpo