They were charming, especially the oldest, a blonde of eighteen, fresh as a flower, and very dainty and pretty! Ah, yes! The pretty Englishwomen have indeed the look of tender sea fruit. One would have said of this one that she had just risen out of the sands and that her hair had kept their tint. They all, with their exquisite freshness, make you think of the delicate colors of pink sea-shells and of shining pearls hidden in the unknown depths of the ocean.
An English Rose
is a nostalgic idea of a beautiful young English lady. She is virtuous and possesses a certain type of modest beauty. This character is always of English breeding, and likely to speak in the RP accent
If from a historical period (and upper-class), she was raised to be a Proper Lady
. A modern specimen does not need to follow the full set of Proper Lady ideals, but still has to be a Nice Girl
: well-mannered and goodhearted.
An English Rose is often composed and dignified in any social setting. A major characteristic is her humility in terms of family and society. Her will can be iron-hard, while seemingly subservient
. Before marriage tends to be a more spirited version
, but doesn't necessarily lose that spirit after marriage. In fact, one of the charms of the English Rose may be her ability to maintain decorum and pleasure regardless of any trouble.
Regarding her looks, English Rose has a set of associated characteristics:
- Her figure, beauty, dress, and manners are modest and conservative rather than provocative or sexy.
- She is more on the petite side, and slender—an English Rose can sometimes be a bit chubby, but is never very tall (outside of modeling business use of the trope) or of very substantial build.
- She is fair skinned, has a rosy glow to her cheeks rather than being eerily pale. Her complexion can be described as peachy pale or porcelain like.
- Her hair can be of any shade as long as it isn't too exotic—wavy, light brown or copper hair is most archetypal, as well as hairstyles more 'natural' and less fabricated than of her peers, but any moderate and understated hairstyle fitting the period fits the type.
- She has gentle eyes, that are almond shaped or drooping rather than cat-like.note
There is no requirement for actresses portraying her actually to be English, or even British. However, it's rare to find actresses playing these characters in English-language media (foreign productions are obviously another story) from outside the Old Commonwealth
Compare with its sister tropes, Yamato Nadeshiko
, from Japan, and Bonne Belle
, from southern USA. Also compare The Woman Wearing the Queenly Mask
and the Princess Classic
If the trope is Played Straight
, she must be English. Englishness is defined by her origin and family background. English Rose from a Fantasy Counterpart Culture
and sci-fi futuristic versions are allowed. England might not exist in the setting, but if said land and culture are based on real life England, associated character tropes may be used as well.
examples are unlikely because this trope requires knowledge about the woman's personal relationships with her family and acting for their benefit in society.
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Anime and Manga
- In Girls und Panzer, Darjeeling is an invoked example and represents England's national stereotype. She strives to present the look and behaviour of an English Rose, despite being Japanese. She's a pale-skinned blonde with permed curls; and a polite, dignified Proper Lady who loves her Spot of Tea... while driving around in a Churchill tank!
- The Other Boleyn Girl has the Tudor beauty Mary making an impression on the king.
Henry: You don't think he'll miss court? A young ambitious man.
Mary: He says not, Your Majesty. But if he ever changed his mind...as his wife, of course, I would do his bidding.
- The beautiful Truly Scrumptious from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is the perfect Proper Lady, and is the daughter of a wealthy sweet factory owner, Lord Scrumptious. She's rather chilly to begin with, but warms up a good deal as the film progresses. She is played by Sally Ann Howes who has the appropriate looks.
- Carol Marcus from Star Trek Into Darkness provides an interesting "Rose-in-space", futuristic variation of this established trope, whilst still retaining the required character traits — she's kind, demure ("turn around, please"), proper, loyal, has a strong moral sense and of course, she's beautiful.
- In Bitter Moon, Fiona is a well-bread, prim and proper pale-skinned English woman, sailing with her husband to Istanbul and India. She's called pretty or lovely several times. Oscar says hers is a subtle brand of beauty with the inimitable British quality. He also makes a point of comparing her to provocatively seductive Mimi (who is Oscar's French wife). Fiona is very nice; for instance she helps a messed-up, crying Mimi or she befriends a little Indian girl.
- Mrs. Miniver has two English Roses from World War II setting. Both are pretty Englishwomen played by American actresses and both characters are connected to the symbolism of the rose.
- Kay Miniver is a dutiful, happy wife and a mother of three from the (upper-)middle class. Her husband Clem says she's even more beautiful than the time he married her. At the beggining of the film, Mrs. Miniver's old friend James Ballard asks her for a permission to name his masterpiece, a rose he has cultivated, after her. Greer Garson who played her has fair ginger hair and white skin, and her look is emphasised by the black and white technicolor.
- Carol Beldon is a dainty little lady who comes from the most prominent family of the neighbourhood. She is a cutie with ivory skin and dark hair. She's admired by everybody in the church and at the ball and she's nice to people of all social standings. Her Grande Dame of a grandmother Lady Beldon is famous for growing beautiful breeds of roses and always winning the local rose contest.
- Despite the fact that Grace Kelly was from Philadelphia, she plays a proper, delicate, reserved, blonde English Rose in Mogambo, in a Betty and Veronica pairing with the hard-partying, semi-slutty brunette character played by Ava Gardner.
Live Action TV
- One obvious English Rose isn't English — or even human. The first Romana, of Doctor Who fame, was imperious and arrogant (if also highly capable), but her second regeneration fits this trope perfectly. Played by Lalla Ward, she was refined, composed, soft-spoken, but also brilliant and strong-willed.
- Several examples from Downton Abbey.
- All three of the Crawley sisters are more or less raised to be English Roses, and all of them have the classic English Rose look. However, each has something keeping her from being perfect examples of the trope, in a manner indicating Spirited Young Lady.
- Lady Mary is perhaps the "classic" Rose, having both the aspirations and appearance of a traditional young English aristocratic woman, but she has an ambitious streak, can be an unapologetic snob, is sometimes quite cruel, and is quite the contrarian.
- Lady Edith is energetic and almost tragically naive at times, but also suffers from a fairly bad case of Middle Child Syndrome. (She's also not nearly as good-looking as her sisters.)
- Lady Sybil possibly fits closest of all, given her genuinely good nature, naturally beautiful looks and strong moral sense. However, her decision to marry the (socialist and Irish Nationalist) chauffeur Tom Branson puts her very firmly in the Spirited Young Lady category.
- Lavinia Swire, also from Downton, fits the bill too - she's sweet natured, gentle, naturally beautiful..... and has a tragic, Victorian-heroine style death bed scene, etc
- Averted by the one young woman named Rose: the Crawleys' cousin Lady Rose MacClare is Scottish (or half-Scottish, at any rate), anything but demure (although she pretends to be at times), dresses provocatively given the chance and indeed is something of a flapper (she goes out to jazz nightclubs and has an affair with a married man). Oddly enough, her great aunt Violet, the Dowager Countess, backs her up in everything but the affair, and she helps cover that one up.
- Young debutante Madeleine Allsopp from the series 4 Christmas Special is yet another example from Downton — she's a petite, fair-skinned, demure little beauty and shows good character and a strong moral sense when she refuses to play along with her impoverished father's schemes when he crassly pushes her onto the wealthy Harold Levinson.
- Liz Grainger from Wish Me Luck is the perfect embodiment of this trope: a pretty (but not too pretty) well-bred, upper-class young woman who is also courageous, principled and willing to serve her country.
- Sophy Hutton is a great example - she's pretty, pale-skinned and a Love Interest for the series' hero Doctor Harrison and is very helpful to her widowed father - who, to top it all off, happens to be the village reverend.
- Miss Matty is an example of English Rose who aged gracefully. She was very pretty when she was young and people say her most striking feature was her complexion. She was very devoted to her family and actually never married because her family needed her support and didn't approve of her suitor. Yet she remained faithful to him and never loved anybody else.
- Friends: Emily Waltham played by Helen Baxendale was Ross's girlfriend from London. She was a beautiful young woman with fair skin and dark hair and dark eyes. Initially she was sweet, caring and she and Ross seemed like a perfect match. She and Ross wanted to get married, but both wanted to stay in their homeland because they had strong ties with their family and friends. After Ross accidentally said "I take thee, Rachel" instead of "I take thee, Emily", she became very jealous and a bit of a crazy shrew, but who could blame her.
- In Secret Diary of a Call Girl (season 4, episode 5), this trope is referenced when High-Class Call Girl Belle puts an ad on her website "Call now for a classic English Rose" while she's staying in New York. She sure can fulfill this dream of meeting a classy, petite, fair-skinned and fair-haired English girl to her American customers. And even though as Hannah (her normal, civil self), she is definitely a nice girl and very intelligent, her job as a call girl and her glamorous, sexy appearance move her very far from the ideal of wholesome beauty.
- Spoofed in the Gilbert and Sullivan light opera Utopia Limited. Two South Seas princessess are being raised by their English governess to be properly modest and retiring English roses, until the visiting "Imported Flowers of Progress" assure them that the English fashion is quite different nowadays:
"A wonderful joy our eyes to bless,
In her magnificent comeliness,
Is an English girl of eleven stone two,note
And five foot ten in her dancing shoe!"
- Cammy White from Street Fighter is what happens to an English Rose when you mix her with Action Girl and Ms. Fanservice. You'd never think of it if you judged her only by her VERY fanservicy looks, but her serious personality and her devotion to her True Companions have more than a whiff of this archetype. She even has the RP accent, specially in the later games. "Cammy White" (Camilla = "priestess", White = the colour of purity) is also a very English Rose-ish name.
- Luserina Barows from Suikoden V is a good example. Although she's not actually English (the series is set in a Medieval European Fantasy land), but her hometown of Rainwall is basically the in-series equivalent of an English town and she is the Squire's daughter. In terms of personality and looks, she fits the bill perfectly, being sweet, kind, well-mannered and elegant, with flowing fair hair and a demure, pretty look. She also exhibits a good deal of Silk Hiding Steel qualities, and is found to be pretty much running the place and keeping morale high during the events of the game.
- An example from a dark game would be the protagonist Jennifer from the disturbingly creepy Rule of Rose, a videogame which presents the intriguing concept of a classic English Rose forced into a Resident Evil-style survival horror environment. Jennifer is a timid, fair, softly-spoken young English woman who seems weak and can be easily pushed about and ordered by others, although this is understandable considering the situation she is forced in. However, she is actually very determined and loyal, being able to endure the bullying and punishments. In this regard, she can be viewed as a strong character.