That moment was the triumphant outcome of the union between York and Lancaster, an important highlight of the new Tudor dynasty, and the physical embodiment of the King’s narrative: a peaceful future. This did not persuade everyone that Henry Tudor should remain on the throne. Perkin Warbeck and Lambert Simnel were both able to muster considerable support in their efforts to displace the Tudor King and end the dynasty before it really began. But despite the challenges, Henry VII held on to the throne and the Tudor dynasty lasted into the 17th century.
The Tudor rose represented the very heart of the Tudor dynasty and it became a way of looking forward to future generations and a peaceful kingdom. Henry VII also used Tudor roses, along with the Beaufort portcullis, to decorate the new chapel he commissioned at Westminster Abbey. This again reinforced his claim to the throne, aligning his reign with God’s glory. Ultimately, the chapel was the final resting place of Tudor monarchs including Henry VII, Edward VI, Mary I, and Elizabeth I. Only Henry VIII was buried elsewhere.
Even after the death of Prince Arthur, the original embodiment of the union of York and Lancaster, the Tudor dynasty and its symbol continued. Henry VIII was celebrated at his coronation in 1509 with Thomas More’s ‘Poems on the coronation of King Henry VIII and Queen Katherine of Aragon,’ which is decorated with several images of the Tudor rose representing Henry and the pomegranate representing Katherine. Stephen Hawes created ‘A Joyful Meditation to All England’ described the royal couple this way:
Two titles in one thou didst well unify
When the red rose took the white in marriage
Reigning together right high and noble
From whose united titles and worth language
Descended is by right excellent courage
King Henry VIII for to reign doubtless.
During his reign, Henry VIII had the large round table at Winchester, which was believed to be the actual round table of King Arthur, repainted, with the King’s new design including a large Tudor rose at the center.
Despite Henry VIII’s efforts to keep his daughters off the throne, Elizabeth became Queen and made significant use of the Tudor rose. One of her coronation pageants, entitled ‘the uniting of the two houses of Lancaster and York,’ featured Henry VII with a red rose, Elizabeth of York with a white rose, Henry VIII as the Tudor rose alongside Anne Boleyn, and finally Elizabeth as the Tudor rose. Elizabeth used the Tudor rose throughout her reign. A crowned Tudor rose features prominently in the so-called ‘Pelican Portrait’ of Elizabeth by Nicholas Hilliard, which was painted around 1574. In this case, the rose is ‘slipped and crowned,’ meaning it’s shown as a cutting with leaves and a stem and topped with a crown. When it appears with just a crown (not the stem), it’s considered ‘royally crowned.’ The Tudor rose is also on a medalet commemorating the ‘Hampshire,’ which is held at the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich. It’s found on Elizabethan coins, and it is visible on Elizabeth’s Great Seal, which is held at the National Archives at Kew.
And then, in 1592, the image of the Tudor rose was in the mind of Shakespeare’s audience as they watch the tensions rise and the war that had become associated with red and white roses being acted out on the stage.
Use of the Tudor rose didn’t end with the Tudors. It had come to represent England. You’ll find it on canons cast in the 17th and 18th centuries and beyond. The Tudor rose is on buildings, ceilings, and public squares across the country. It’s on the 20-pence coins minted between 1982 and 2008. You’ll find Tudor rose Christmas ornaments, greeting cards, and wallpaper. It’s all over the coronation regalia that is still in use today, from the robe to the armillas to the spurs.
The Tudor rose is not an accurate representation of the ‘Wars of the Roses’—a title that wasn’t used until 1829 in a novel by Sir Walter Scott. Instead, it’s an example of the extraordinary success the Tudors achieved in creating an image of themselves and their reign that literally stamped itself all over our collective consciousness. The ‘rose both red and white’ has turned out to be one of the most successful logos of all time—all thanks to the first Tudor King.