Monday, 17 July 2017

An English Rose

I mentioned Jan Struther yesterday - as well as hymns, she is also the author of the famous wartime story "Mrs Miniver". 
This film, starring the fragrant Greer Garson, was released 75 years ago  - July 1942. 
It is the story of a true English Rose, whose peaceful resistance to the Nazi threat "did more for the Allies than a flotilla of battleships", according to Winston Churchill. The film won 6 academy awards. 
If you have never seen it, you've missed a real treat of classic British wartime cinema!

In one part of the film, the local stationmaster, and amateur gardener develops a new rose- and chooses to call it "Mrs Miniver". Now remember, this was the 1940s - not nowadays. "Film merchandising" is huge now - think Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Minions etc etc. But back then, the American cosmetics firm Revlon rushed to produce lipstick and nail varnish in a shade called Mrs Miniver Rose" 

And an American rose grower, Jackson & Perkins introduced a hybrid tea rose, called the Mrs Miniver Rose - large, scarlet and strongly fragrant, which had been first bred in Southern France at the nurseries of César Chambord.
But that was all 75 years ago - and many now dismiss the film as a sentimental tear-jerker, or a propaganda piece. Well yes it is those things - but it is still a cracking film with some clever and thought provoking scenes, challenging the popular attitudes to war, and to the appearance of foreigners on British soil.
Four years ago, a gardener in Devon called Orlando Murrins set himself the challenge of finding a Mrs Miniver rosebush for his garden. Jackson & Perkins dropped the variety from their catalogue years ago. British rose growers [Austins, LeGrice, Harkness etc] could not help. Murrins put out an appeal [how useful is the Internet?] and Becky Hook in France directed him to a collection in the former East Germany, the Europa Rosarium near Leipzig.
But the Mrs Miniver Rose was not among their 8300 varieties - their last bush perished in the frosts of 2012. There was apparently one bush known to exist in a private garden. Ysenda Maxtone Graham, Jan Struther's granddaughter, stepped forward to join the campaign. Finally after various setbacks, Martin Briese, a friend of Becky Hook was able to procure a couple of cuttings from the private garden. He was appalled by the Brexit vote, but graciously agreed to send the cuttings to Orlando.
At last Mrs Miniver is blooming in a pot in Orlando's rooftop garden in Exeter.
The Mrs Miniver Rose has been rediscovered!
What a great story - read more about the rose here
Other bizarre Miniver trivia; 
A race horse called The Miniver Rose was the top seller at Tattersall's December Sales, going for 550,000 guineas.
Miniver Rose is the name of a self-catering holiday cottage in Aberlour, Scotland
A sequel to the original film was made in 1950, called The Miniver Story - but I have never seen that one. Interestingly, in the original film, her son Toby was played by Christopher Severn, but in the sequel by an 11 year old James Fox [brother of Edward, father of Laurence, uncle to Emilia...yes, that family of Foxes]


  1. I'm so glad the rose was found!
    The film sounds great. I was amused by the name Walter Pidgeon as the previous vicar at my current church was called Warner Pidgeon. I wonder if he was named after him?

  2. How lovely that a rose thought to have been lost has been found. I love my roses. Eloise

  3. Didn't Greer Garson give the longest ever Oscar acceptance speech for this film? Over five minutes I think. She is the reason they put such stringent time limits on the speeches these days.

  4. I had completely forgotten about her speech being so long. Thanks for another nugget of Miniver Trivia

  5. I read the book before watching the film, so pleased I did as the book was different from the film which I enjoyed more for the settings and interiors of 1930s homes

  6. I love "Mrs. Miniver"--in fact, I was recently thinking about watching it again. Maybe my library has a copy ...


  7. One of my favourite films of all time. Did you know Greer Garson was in fact married to the actor playing her son Vin?


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