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 (or British at least) 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 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.
While English Rose is not defined by a specific look
, it does have a set of associated characteristics.
- her figure, beauty, dress, and manners are modest and conservative rather than provocative or sexy
- 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
- is fair skinned, has a rosy glow to her cheeks rather than being eerily pale
- 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
- has gentle eyes, that are almond shaped or drooping rather than cat-like (following the Japanese Droopy Eyes = gentle, Catty Eyes = active stereotypes)
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
examples are unlikely because this requires knowlege about the woman's personal relationships with her family and acting for their benefit in society.
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Anime and Manga
- Victorian Romance Emma, written by self-confessed Anglophile Kaoru Mori, contains some great examples. Demure, fair-haired beauty Eleanor Campbell (complete with I Want My Beloved to Be Happy storyline), as well as the titular Emma herself both qualify, albeit from opposite ends of the social-class spectrum.
- 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 too is played by real-life English rose, Sally Ann Howes.
- The novel The Other Boleyn Girl is even more overt than the film in its portrayal of Mary as this. Anne describes Mary (albeit mockingly) as "sweet and open and English and fair" at one stage, and Henry VIII himself refers to her as "my little English rose".
- Elizabeth's sister Jane from Pride and Prejudice, both the book and the film. Kind, polite, well-mannered and beautiful English country gentry. Jane is considered the most beautiful young lady in the neighbourhood. Her character is contrasted with Elizabeth's as sweeter, shyer, and equally sensible, but not as clever; her most notable trait is a desire to see only the good in others.
- In The Royal Diaries book Elizabeth I: Red Rose of the House of Tudor Henry VIII of England got angry at Prince Edward for being lazy while the girls worked on the rose bushes. Elizabeth was quick to respectfully tell her father that she thinks that Edward's humors were out of balance. For that the king tenderly told the princess that she was the true Tudor rose.
- From the Aunt Dimity series: "A somewhat distant and distaff twig of the [Penford] family tree, but a twig nonetheless", Susannah Ashley-Woods was a fashion model known as "Ashers, the English Rose", effectively trading on this trope. Not that she quite lives up to the ideal; explaining her ill-manners, the duke says of her, "She was raised by wolves, you know." It is only after she's assaulted by a hero-worshipping housemaid that she reverts to the good manners associated with this trope.
Live Action TV
- All three of the Crawley sisters from Downton Abbey 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, 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.
- 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 (revolutionary 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.
- 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 from Cranford is a great example - she's pretty, pale-skinned, an in-universe Lust Object 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.
- Call The Midwife has Sister Bernadette, who is unusual in that she is a nun. But then she falls quite desperately in love with the widowed Dr Turner, which is most certainly reciprocated, and leaves the Order. The second series ends with their engagement, which ends up making her a classic example of the trope.
- 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. She even has the RP accent, specially in the most recent 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), 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.