Living in a foreign country can change your perspective of what you think “everybody knows”. I was teaching a class about England to French teenagers and I mentioned the Tudor rose. They didn’t know what I was talking about! This came as a bit of a surprise to me as the Tudor rose was one of the emblems on my school badge at secondary school and everybody (in England!) recognises it.
The Tudor rose is the national symbol of England and takes its name from the rule of The Tudors, who reigned the Kingdom of England from 1485 to 1603. The Tudor rose is red with a white centre, symbolising the joining of the House of York and the House of Lancaster, the end of the War of the Roses and the beginning of the Tudor Dynasty.
The House of York and The House of Lancaster were at war with each other in a battle for the throne of England. This war was called The War of the Roses. It is so called because The House of York used a badge with a white rose and The House of Lancaster used a badge with a red rose.
The War of the Roses killed off many of the leading contenders for the throne. So although Lancastrian Henry Tudor had a weak claim to the throne, he defeated the last Yorkist King, Richard III, at the Battle of Bosworth Field. The Battle of the Bosworth Field was the last significant battle of the War of the Roses. Henry Tudor was victorious and became King Henry VII.
After assuming the throne, Henry VII married Elizabeth of York; uniting the two houses. The white of York and the red of Lancaster are joined together to make The Tudor rose, marking the union of the two houses and the beginning of a Tudor reign.
The Tudor rose was used as a symbol of peace and today it is used as the symbol of England, just as Scotland uses a thistle, Wales a leek and Ireland a shamrock. The Tudor rose features on the twenty pence coin and on the coat of arms of Canada.