English Elegance & Margaret Merril Say GoodbyeMonday, October 26, 2009
My grandmother taught me a lot, not only because she had been a teacher at Assumption College in Manila in the 20s and 30s but because she was ahead of her time in believing that nobody was ever too young to learn. I remember the first time she mentioned, “Se despidieron a la francesa.” “They said goodbye, French style.” Some guests at a party my grandmother had given had suddenly disappeared. I was 8 or 9 and a bit curious so I asked her what this meant. She told me that during the Napoleonic wars Napoleon had made his older brother Joseph, king of Spain (Joseph I) in 1806. In 1813 Wellington and his English and Portuguese forces defeated the French army at Vitoria and Joseph was gone after trying to abdicate. My grandmother explained, “The French left so quickly they forgot to say goodbye. And even today the Spanish still use the expression when people are rude in their farewells.” What is most interesting is that Joseph went to live in the United States. He first settled in New York City and Philadelphia but finally settled in Bordentown, New Jersey before returning to Europe in the early 20s. To this day in Spain and in my Buenos Aires anybody who is a bit of a fop or a dandy is called un afrancesado or Frenchified. The two roses here I scanned today. The pink one is Rosa ‘English Elegance’ most elegant even at this later date. The white one is Margaret Merril a bit ruffled and roughed up by today’s wind. The former is a David Austin English Rose and the second is a Harkness floribunda. It is also bred in England. My Spanish grandmother (who was an Anglophile) would have gleefully pointed out that these two roses indeed have good manners as they have said goodbye before leaving us, as winter (or what seems like winter) settled in today.