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The Yorkshire Ridings Society
preserving Yorkshire's integrity

Yorkshire Ridings Society

The Yorkshire Rose

The white rose is traditionally supposed to represent purity and innocence - but to Yorkshire folk, it always means home.

There have been disagreements about the point at which the white rose properly became Yorkshire's official emblem, but it was probably used for the first time by the first Duke of York, Edmund, in the 14th century.  The rose was then adopted by York men as on of the emblems of the area in the 15th-century battles with the House of Lancaster, who men too the red rose as their symbol.  Soldiers used many other emblems of their various lords and masters, of course, and the roses were far from being the official logos of the two ides.  But when Henry VII ended the last phase of battles in 1485, he made a symbolic gesture of uniting the two roses into a single red and white flower, the Tudor Rose.

The fierce civil wars only became popularly known as the Wars of the Roses a few centuries later, but by the time the powerful resonance of the white rose of Yorkshire had been firmly established.  Shakespeare refers to the white rose in Henry VI, written in the 1580s and 1590s.  And on 1 August 1759 soldiers from the Yorkshire regiments at the Battles of Minden picked white roses in tribute of the fallen colleagues.  This date has since been adopted as Yorkshire Day, when all Yorkshire people are encouraged to wear the white rose, and some people argue that it was in this battle rather than during the Wars of the Roses that the flower properly became Yorkshire's emblem.  Whether the roses were picked by the soldiers for the emblematic value or simply because they happened to be nearby is unclear.


Either way, the white rose has become a widely used and cherished symbol of Yorkshire, and its importance is such that there have been serious arguments about which way up the popular five-petaled depiction of it should be arranged  Cricket matches between Yorkshire and Lancashire - and indeed just about any sporting fixture between teams from the two counties - are still known as Roses games, and the flower has been adopted as an emblem by a host of Yorkshire organisations and business.  Leeds even has a White Rose Shopping Centre - perhaps not exactly what the soldiers of the Wars of the Roses and the Battle of Minden had in mind all those years ago, but proof of the power of the emblem.



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