An English Rose is a nostalgic idea of a beautiful young English lady. She is virtuous and possesses a certain type of modest, natural 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 she tends to be a more spirited version, and if she marries, she doesn't necessarily lose that spirit. 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 chaste 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, soft blonde, or auburn 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 to actually 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 (minus Canada).
Compare with its sister tropes, Yamato Nadeshiko from Japan, the "Bonne Belle" type of the Southern Belle from southern USA, and Circassian Beauty from the Caucasus. Also compare The Woman Wearing the Queenly Mask and the Princess Classic. Contrast with The Lad-ette.
If the trope is Played Straight, she must be English. Englishness is defined by her origin and family background. English Roses 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.
Real Life examples are unlikely because this trope requires knowledge about the woman's personal relationships with her family and acting for their benefit in society.
- Victorian Romance Emma, written by self-confessed Anglophile Kaoru Mori, contains some great examples. For instance, there is demure, fair-haired beauty Eleanor Campbell (complete with I Want My Beloved to Be Happy storyline).
- 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!
- In the audio play Big Finish Doctor Who, Doctor's companion Charlotte "Charley" Elspeth Pollard was raised to become one, but said Screw This, I'm Outta Here! as soon as she had the chance to. However, many of her traits fit perfectly. She has hard time dealing with the fact she's not going to see her family ever again, she longs to become a mother, she speaks in the classic Received Pronunciation, Jane Austen is one of her favourite authors, and she's very much in love with the past and enjoys Gorgeous Period Dresses. She's a classy Lady of Adventure and sees historical adventures as an excuse to put her endless etiquette lessons to good use. Occasionally referenced:
Keep: There's a tint to your skin.Charley: [dripping with sarcasm] It's called English Rose.
- 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-bred, 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 beginning 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.
- Evie from The Mummy Trilogy is a very prim, sensible English Rose, and as she's played by Rachel Weisz, she has exactly the right look.
- The titular character of Mary Poppins is ladylike, well-mannered, with a number of feminine talents (though a bit wacky). It comes from being "practically perfect in every way", of course. She's essentially an English Rose taken Up to Eleven. In the movie version, she was portrayed as a pretty brunette, played by the always awesome Julie Andrews.
- Hysteria: Emily is the younger daughter of a widowed Doctor Dalrymple. She is a pretty, gentle and dainty young woman with fair skin and dark hair. (She is played by Felicity Jones who has the right look). She knows her father depends on her help in his London household and she is a very obedient and affectionate daughter. Because of her father's expectations, she tries to fulfil the Victorian ideal of "angel of the house". Later, by the end of the film, she knows herself better and wants to be more her own person, but she is still a very nice girl, with the promise that she will be more cheerful and happy.
- The novel The Other Boleyn Girl is even more overt than the film in its portrayal of Mary as English Rose. This is justified, however, as it's an image that she deliberately cultivates to catch the king's eye. When calling her out on this, Anne describes Mary as "sweet and open and English and fair", and Henry VIII himself refers to her as "my little English rose".
- In the book Elizabeth I: Red Rose of the House of Tudor from The Royal Diaries series, 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.
- Jane Austen has quite a few:
- Elizabeth's sister Jane Bennet from Pride and Prejudice is a kind, polite, well-mannered and beautiful lady from the English country gentry. Jane is considered the most beautiful young woman 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.
- Jane Fairfax from Emma is a beautiful, intelligent, accomplished and gentle young woman, and she seems to be admired by virtually everybody. She has dark hair, deep grey eyes, dark eyelashes and eyebrows, and her complexion is fair, smooth and delicate without being pale. She's rather tall, and her figure is graceful and elegant. Unfortunately, Jane has shattered health, so she lacks the rosy cheeks. Emma herself also thinks she should be friendlier, livelier and little less proper in her Proper Lady-like behaviour.
- Miss Anne Elliot from Persuasion, though it appears she has lost her bloom, but she regains her appeal in the course of the novel. She's gentle, affectionate with an elegant mind and desire to help everybody. She has delicate features and mild dark eyes, and she's described as an elegant little woman. She's contrasted with her handsome sister Elizabeth who is a more striking beauty, but very haughty and unkind.
- Fanny Price from Mansfield Park. She's a timid and quiet girl, and people at the Park don't value her much when she's little, but she's a very patient companion to her idle aunt. She blooms fully when her cousin Maria gets married and cousin Julia leaves with her. Fanny grows into a very pretty girl with light-coloured eyes and a sweet smile, and she blushes frequently. She loves her brother William and she's a great comfort to her sister Susan as both girls are unfavourite for their parents.
- Eleanor Tilney from Northanger Abbey is General Tilney's daughter and a perfect example from the English country gentry. She's a long-suffering beautiful girl who lost her mother very young and has only her difficult father for a companion. She likes her brother Henry and is a kind friend to the novel's heroine Catherine Morland. She's also put in contrast with Catherine's first friend Isabella Thorpe who is beautiful but extremely shallow.
- Elinor Dashwood from Sense and Sensibility is The Reliable One of her family despite being only nineteen. She's very pretty, though her sister Marianne is thought to be the prettiest, but Marianne is also slightly darker and her beauty is of the exotic kind. Elinor is fair and has the appropriate looks, and her calm and dignified personality makes her fit perfectly. Elinor's mother and sisters think she's too calm and that she should be a bit more emotional, but her Not So Stoic moments show she has lots of true and deep feelings.
- Frederica Vernon from Lady Susan is a very pretty young girl with delicate complexion, pleasant oval face, mild dark eyes and "peculiar sweetness in her look". Her abusive mother Lady Susan tells lies about her, so her aunt and uncle expect Frederica to be uncultured, uneducated and amoral. They are pleasantly surprised to find that Frederica is very timid and shy, and a major Bookworm and Friend to All Children. Here is a sentence about Frederica from her aunt's letter:
"There cannot be a more gentle, affectionate heart; or more obliging manners, when acting without restraint; and her little cousins are all very fond of her."
- 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.
- In The Infernal Devices, Tessa Gray is a New Yorker who travels to Victorian London, and she describes Jessamine Lovelace as one. Jessamine strives to be a Proper Lady and has many lady-like attributes (like her Parasol of Prettiness), but ultimately she fails to be a straight example because she's something of a Spoiled Brat.
- In Aubrey-Maturin series, Captain Jack Aubrey's eventual wife is the lovely blonde Sophie Williams. She really wants marriage with children and is a true Proper Lady, down to Lie Back and Think of England.
- The narrator of Guy de Maupassant's short-story "The Wreck" is an older Frenchman who reflects on his acquaintance with a pretty Englishwoman with whom he has been corresponding his whole life since they met (20 years ago on New Year's Eve). She was a sandy-haired, dainty young girl of eighteen who was travelling with her father and two younger sisters. He worked as an inspector of the Maritime Insurance Company and they met on a wrecked ship. They nearly died because as they were strolling on the wreck, the tide swept the ship back on sea. The narrator says she was the only woman he has ever loved, and she became a lost ideal he cannot have. She got married and the narrator says they write to each other every New Year's Day. She writes about her life, her sisters and her children, but he only ever writes about their encounter.
- In The Ghost Writer, Gerard Freeman imagines his English pen-girlfriend Alice Jessell as a voluptuous and seductive pre-Raphaelite beauty with milky skin and cascades of coppery hair. Ultimately subverted in reality with her true form that includes tropes Facial Horror, Bald Woman, Bald of Evil, and Our Ghosts Are Different.
- In Shades of Milk and Honey, which is more or less "like Jane Austen's works, but with magic", the heroine Jane is a very proper English lady. Her younger sister Melody is prettier, but also more spirited, and maybe a tad bit too spirited to fit the trope. At one point in the story, Jane even wears a dress decorated with roses.
- All three main female characters in Middlemarch are subversions:
- Rosamond was raised and generally accepted to be an archetypal English Rose: beautiful, gentle and virtuous, whereas inwardly she is shallow and selfish.
- Mary Garth is perfectly honourable and well-mannered, but she is quite plain.
- Dorothea is the one that comes closest to playing this trope straight, as she is at once beautiful, incredibly modest in both senses of the word and a seriously good person, but she is a bit too "fervent" in her beliefs and ideals, and a bit too interested in "manly affairs" (such as managing her land, or science and learning) to be considered a completely decent lady in 19th century England.
- In To Say Nothing of the Dog, Ned, a 21st century time-traveling historian in the Victorian era, describes one: "She was like a delicate blossom, capable of growing only in a single time, adapted only to the select hothouse environment of the late Victorian era: the untouched flower, the blooming English rose, the angel in the house." It was Verity, another time traveling historian.
- Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell: The daughter of a clergyman, Arabella Strange is a charming, intelligent, caring and humorous English young woman. She's pale-skinned, petite and always modestly dressed. She's good-looking, too, but with a True Beauty Is on the Inside catch, as she's described as "moderately pretty" rather than beautiful - but her good humour and vivacity make her incredibly attractive to those around her.
- The Essex Serpent: Stella Ransome, the lovely and sweet wife of priest William Ransome and mother of three, who all live in the village of Aldwinter in an Essex parish. Stella is blue-eyed with blond hair, very beautiful and petite (she's described as "no bigger than a fairy and twice as pretty"), and she's also warm and radiant. She loves collecting and pressing wild blue flowers, she often wears blue clothes and becomes obsessed with the blue colour and blue things in general. She's gradually consumed by tuberculosis and her fair, pale skin becomes almost translucent.
- 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 deathbed scene.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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, 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 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.
- In Broadchurch, as part of a bid to sell the story to her boss, a journalist describes grieving mother Beth Lattimer as "a real English Rose" to attract readers. In many ways it's a deliberately Invoked Trope as the journalist plays up the portrayal of Beth as a demure and tragic young mother in her article (when in actuality, Beth and her grieving process are considerably more complex) and asks the family for a photo to better showcase Beth's English Rose appearance: fair skin, dark hair, petite frame and classic beauty.
- The Crown (2016) : Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is the Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and Head of the Commonwealth. She grew up in a loving family that never expected her to become the monarch. She's a porcelain-skinned, petite young woman with rich brown hair and blue eyes who possesses a gentle demeanor and iron will.
- The Last Kingdom: Aethelflaed of the Kingdom of Wessex is an Anglo-Saxon princess, the beloved daughter of King Alfred who dreams of uniting the separate kingdoms of England. She's beautiful, strong, brave and intelligent with a keen sense of authority. She has dark hair and very fair skin with pink undertones. She's married to Lord Aethelred of Mercia. Eventually Mercians respect her more than her husband and she's growing into the warrior queen archetype.
- Anna Fulford from Murdoch Mysteries is a young English woman who comes from Bristol, a pretty pale-skinned blonde with big dark-brown eyes. She's an owner of a pub she inherited from her deceased father. She's sweet, kind and lively. She intuitively recognizes that Detective Murdoch is a good man, even though he's pursued by the police or roguish agents, and she decides to help him and later becomes his Love Interest (though she's ultimately not the woman he ends up with).
- Song "Rose of England" by Chris de Burgh is about an English Rose of Royal Blood who is lovely, fine, sweet and fair. She loves a man who is not her equal. When she becomes Queen, she weds her country and is no longer a mistress of her heart.
- The trope is briefly mentioned in song "Portobello Belle" by Dire Straits. The song is about a modern girl walking through the market on Portobello Road:
"She thinks she's tough / She ain't no English rose..."
- "English Rose" by The Jam is about the protagonist's desire to return to see and to be with the titular woman.
- Spoofed in the Gilbert and Sullivan light opera Utopia Limited. Two South Seas princesses 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!"
- An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde: Mabel Chiltern is in the script described as a perfect example of the English prettiness and is compared to a flower and classically beautiful statue. She's more spirited and rebellious than her innocent, dainty appearance may lead one to believe.
"Mabel Chiltern is a perfect example of the English type of prettiness, the apple-blossom type. She has all the fragrance and freedom of a flower. There is ripple after ripple of sunlight in her hair, and the little mouth, with its parted lips, is expectant, like the mouth of a child. She has the fascinating tyranny of youth, and the astonishing courage of innocence. To sane people she is not reminiscent of any work of art. But she is really like a Tanagra statuette, and would be rather annoyed if she were told so."
- Evie Frye from Assassin's Creed: Syndicate fits this trope well, whilst combining it with several traits from Lady of War via her role as a deadly assassin and master marks-woman. In appearance, she's a slender, petite young Londoner with freckled, rosy cheeks, and sports a Prim and Proper Bun of chestnut hair. In character, she is calm, no-nonsense and is able to hold herself in any situation with a good deal of grace, despite the mayhem surrounding her.
- 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.
- There are two examples from the Street Fighter series:
- Cammy White shows 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, especially in the later games. "Cammy White" (Camilla = "priestess", White = the colour of purity) is also an archetypal English Rose name.
- Julia, one of the "judgement girls" from Street Fighter III, is the daughter of a wealthy English industrialist and a member of the "Young Ladies of the World" club. She is of an earnest disposition, and with her neat blonde hair and smart red riding clothes, she looks the part of a proper young English lady all set for the hunt.
- Luserina Barows from Suikoden V is an excellent, invoked example. 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.