Saturday, September 27, 2014

Who Was the "Rose Without a Thorn"?

So many historical legends that we take for granted as being fact are not true at all. From The Anne Boleyn Files:
I consulted the secondary sources on my bookshelf. In The Six Wives of Henry VIII, Alison Weir wrote that “Henry was so besotted with Katherine that he ordered a medal to be struck in commemoration of their marriage. It was of gold, embossed with Tudor roses and true lovers’ knots entwined, and it carried the inscription: HENRICUS VIII: RUTILANS ROSA SINE SPINA, a pretty reference to the King’s rose without a thorn, his perfect bride”,1 but there was no reference cited. Fortunately, I had better luck with Antonia Fraser’s The Six Wives of Henry VIII. In her book, Fraser wrote that “To Henry VIII, Katherine Howard was his ‘blushing rose without a thorn’.” and in her notes she gave the Latin motto, RUTILANS ROSA SINE SPINA (blushing rose without a thorn) and cited Agnes Strickland, the Victorian historian, as her source.2 I have Strickland’s The Lives of the Queens of England: Volume II so I checked and Strickland wrote:

“He could neither afford to honour Katherine Howard with a public bridal nor a coronation, but he paid her the compliment of causing gold coins to be struck in commemoration of their marriage, bearing the royal arms of England, flanked with H R, and surmounted with the royal diadem. On the reverse is a rose, crowned, in allusion to his bride, flanked by the initiala K R, with the following legend:- HENRICUS VIII. RUTILANS ROSA SINE SPINA.”3

Strickland did not give any more details on the coin struck for Katherine so I then went digging into Tudor coins. In Dye’s Coin Encylopaedia, I found that Henry VIII “introduced the ‘Gold Crown’ into the English series of coinage” and that this coin had “upon its obverse a double rose, crowned between the letters ‘H.R.’ (Henry Rex). ‘H.A.’ (Henry and Anne). ‘H.J.’ (Henry and Jane). ‘H.K.’ (Henry and Katherine)”. It bore the legend “HENRIC. VIII. RUTILANS ROSA SIE SPIA”, or Henricus VIII., Rutilans rosa sine spina, meaning “Henry VIII, the shining/dazzling rose without a thorn. So, this encyclopaedia was stating that the legend actually described Henry, not Katherine.4

I then consulted other coin books and websites. In Coins of England and Great Britain, Tony Clayton stated that the “Crown of the Rose” coin was “an extremely rare coin struck during the second coinage of Henry VIII for a few months in 1526″ and explained that there were “two types, both of which feature a large rose on the reverse. One has the inscription HENRIC RUTILANS ROSA SINE SPINA, meaning ‘Henry a dazzling rose without a thorn’, and the other DNS HIB RUTILANS ROSA SINE SPINA, meaning ‘Lord of Ireland a dazzling rose without a thorn’.”5 Henry VIII was still married to Katherine of Aragon in 1526 so this coin was not a medal struck in celebration of his marriage to Katherine Howard. Thomas Snelling’s A View of the Silver Coin and Coinage of England from the Norman Conquest gave exactly the same information as Dye’s Coin Encylopaedia.6 In Henfrey’s Guide to English Coins, it said:
“Crown. Obv. a double rose crowned, between the letters H.K. (for Henry, and Katherine his 1st wife); or H.A. (for Henry, and Anne his 2nd wife); or H.I. (for Henry, and Jane his 3rd wife); or the letters H.R. (for Henricus Rex). All these letters are crowned. HENRIC VIII. RVTILANS ROSA SIE SPIA.”7
It also described the half-crown as being similar but with uncrowned letters next to the legend.
 On the Portable Antiquities Scheme website, which records archaeological finds, I found a photo of a gold crown from Henry VIII’s reign which was dated 1509-1526 and bore a crowned H and R with the legend “HENRIC VIII RUTILANS ROSA SINE SPINA”.8 On /, there are photographs of each side of “the Crown of the Double Rose” which has the crowned initials H and I (I was for Jane) either side of the Tudor rose on one side and Henry VIII’s arms on the other. It also bears the legend HENRIC VIII. RVTILANS ROSA SIE SPIA, which is proof that the legend was being used before Henry had even met Katherine Howard. (Read more.)


Nancy Bilyeau said...

This is fascinating! Reminds me of Philippa Gregory saying she wrote "The Other Boleyn Girl" because she learned that Henry VIII named a ship after Mary Boleyn, when the facts are that Thomas Boleyn, Mary's father, sold the ship to the king already named...

elena maria vidal said...

Ahhh! Interesting!!