A single red rose has long been synonymous with love, lust and Valentine’s Day in particular. But how did such a prickly flower manage to win the hearts of romantics across the globe?
To begin, we head all the way back to ancient Greece where the rose was a symbol of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, beauty, pleasure and procreation.
Almost 800 years later during the Roman Empire, marriage was forbidden to lowly soldiers because Emperor Claudius II thought they should only love Rome herself.
Into this sad state of affairs entered St Valentine, who thought marriage was a gift to be shared with all who loved (amazing how some ideas persist over time). He secretly wed roman soldiers to their betrothed in defiance of the Emperor’s Law and was eventually executed on (you guessed it) February 14.
It appears that not only was St Valentine willing to commit treason for love, he was also an avid student of the greatest human emotion. Even while incarcerated he continued to pay especially close attention to understanding the sins of the flesh. His final correspondence was a love letter to his jailer’s daughter with the now-familiar salutation “from your Valentine”.
Although the red rose was a symbol of love and romance dating back to ancient Greece and Valentine’s Day was born from love and defiance during the Roman Empire, their pairing took some time. Another 1,700 odd years, in fact, when King Charles II of Sweden introduced the custom of a rose for Valentine’s Day.
And while you may think we should all be thanking a wonderfully romantic Swedish monarch for coupling these two great symbols of love, the truth is far less starry-eyed. It seems the reason Charles II chose the rose for a Valentine’s Day tradition was not due to its history or symbolism, but because of supply-chain logistics.
Flowers around the world needed to be grown, cut, boxed and quickly carted back to Europe. Roses, it turned out, were exceedingly well suited to withstanding this particular punishment! And while a rose for your Valentine by any other history might yet smell as sweet, horticulturalists and florists have been thanking Charles II ever since.
This Valentine’s Day, ensure you’ve got your red rose ready by making your way down to King Street Wharf. A few of our beautiful harbour-side restaurants are providing complimentary champagne and a single red rose to each booking for two.