La Belle Sultane
The story behind Rosa ‘La Belle Sultane’ cannot be proven as fact but it is still fascinating. I sometimes wonder how Rosemary’s lovely blue Plumbago can conjure the images that roses, uniquely can.
It seems that Napoleon’s wife, Queen Josephine (Josephine Tascher de la Pagerie ) had a childhood friend in Martinique called Aimée Buc de Rivery who was captured by Barbary pirates. She was taken to Algiers and later given to Sultan Selim III’s harem. She was named “La Sultane Validée”.
According to the legend, Aimée became the wife of the sultan, taking the name of Nakşidil. She introduced French ideas to the Ottoman people, especially the sultan, and her French-style reforms may have led to his death at the hands of the Janissaries and the Ulema, which were against the liberalization of the empire. During the rule of Abdul Hamid I, Aimée taught him French; and for the first time, a permanent ambassador was sent from Constantinople to Paris. Selim started a French newspaper and let Nakşidil decorate the palace in rococo style, which was popular in France at that time. Aimee bore a son named Mahmud II, who became sultan after his father’s death.
The assassins, aided by the Ulema, also sought to kill Mahmud, but Nakşidil saved her son by concealing him inside a furnace. Thus Mahmud became the next Sultan, accomplishing significant reforms in the society and military of the empire that were, for the most part, attributed to the influence of his mother.
It was furthermore reported that it was Aimée as Nakşidil who forced her son to sign peace between Russia and the Ottoman Empire in 1812, just to have a revenge on Napoleon who had divorced her cousin Joséphine and married Marie Louise. With the peace on the Ottoman border, the Russian Emperor was free to war against the man Aimée had a personal interest in seeing humbled.
Although Aimée accepted Islam as part of the harem etiquette, as well as the religion of her husband, she always remained a Roman Catholic in her heart. Her last wish was for a priest to perform the last rites. Her son did not deny her this: as Aimée lay dying, a priest passed for the first time through the Seraglio, to perform the Holy Sacrament before her death. Her tomb lies not far from the Hagia Sophia.
The above story cannot be proven. It is legend.
Two years ago I found this beautiful Gallica at the UBC Shop in the Garden. It had been delivered by Robin Denning of the now closed Brentwood Bay Nursery on Vancouver Island. It did not bloom last year but did this year. At this time of writing it is almost spent. I can confirm that of all the Gallicas I have seen this rose has the nicest golden/yellow anthers of any rose.
The chances of anybody finding this rose (and all kinds of delicious Gallicas) is all but impossible with Robin Denning gone. It would seem that for many of the members of the Vancouver Rose Society (and I am one) our roses are the last of their kind in our area. I am attempting to persuade the executive of the Vancouver Rose Society to start a cuttings archive to safeguard their existence. In the last scanned image below you can compare the anthers of James Mason (the one in bloom) with that of Complicata and La Belle Sultane. All three are Gallicas.
Originally published at blog.alexwaterhousehayward.com.