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Petals of Importance & Influence: An Exhibit Regarding the Rose by the James Smith Noel Collection

The Windsor Rose.
The Windsor Rose.

The James Smith Noel Collection, housed on the 3rd Floor of the Noel Memorial Library at Louisiana State University Shreveport, is displaying archived works about the rose through August 11.

Roses, dubbed “The Queen of the Flowers” by Greek poet Sappho in 600 B.C., have been portrayed in art and literature for centuries. The James Smith Noel Collection, housed on the 3rd Floor of the Noel Memorial Library at Louisiana State University Shreveport, is displaying archived works about the rose through August 11.

“Petals of Importance and Influence: An Exhibit Regarding the Rose” features various books from the extensive collection of James Smith Noel ranging from the 17th through the 20th century. Rachel Sherman is a cataloger for the collection, and she carefully selected the showcased pieces out of hundreds of books. She says Ruth Noel, wife of James Smith Noel, is responsible for so many books on roses existing in the collection.

Rachel: Mrs. Ruth Noel loved flowering and gardening, so Mr. Noel would get her some of those rose books- some of those flowering and gardening books as gifts. So, it really helped build our flower collection. We probably have a few hundred books on plants but mainly the rose. We have a very large selection. A lot of it’s more modern books–1960s, 1970s. We do like to tend more toward older materials: 17-1800s, which we do have. But the more modern ones have the prettier pictures.

The exhibit displays pictures and illustrations of roses, but also tells the story of the rose throughout history, including how it played a part in the Wars of the Roses.

Rachel: It wasn’t even called War of the Roses until Sir Walter Scott referred to it in one of his works. So the War of the Roses starts off as a war of succession after the fall of the Plantagenet family, which primarily ruled in England. After they fell, at the end of the Hundred Years’ War, it came into question who succeeded. So you actually had the Lancasters and the Yorks. It was the true Game of Thrones. So you had these two feuding families, the Lancasters and the Yorks, which both used a rose in their coat of arms–a red and a white rose. Well, then you had this random guy by the name of Henry Tutor, who claimed to be descended on his mother’s side from the Plantagenet family, and relative of John of Gaunt. Which was unheard of. At the time, during lineage successions you always claimed true succession of the male lineage. And it was not seen as true lineage for a long time if you claimed the female side. That was historically the rules of the time; it was always male succession. So, he was claiming that he had a right of succession. And he was sort of an offshoot of the Lancaster family as well. So, he ended up marrying one of the York children, the last York girl. And merged the two crests, which is how we ended up with the very famous red and white rose that became the Tutor rose. But he ended up having two sons: Arthur, and who became Henry VIII.

Martha Lawler, the Director of the James Smith Noel Collection, walks through the exhibit and points out the variety of topics displayed.

Martha: How to maintain the gardens, she’s got one here: Watercolors and Drawings in the Italian School of Art in the 15th Century, how they get incorporated in architecture through the structure of gardens, or through architectural details, you know, like rosette windows. This is a book of quotes from Shakespeare’s plays. And it was put together by a woman in early 1800s England as a gift for her brother who was a doctor in India. And she took quotes from Shakespeare’s plays that talked about plants and flowers in England and had that quote to put on each page and then a lithograph of the plant. So, this is 200-year-old illustrations that still are pretty. And then she highlighted in blue what it was. See here, it’s a quote from King Henry VI where he’s talking about the conflict between the house of Lancaster and the house of York.

With Red River Radio News, I am Alaina Atnip.