David de Rosier Blanc

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David de Rosier-Blanc, b. 1492, d. unknown (I'll let you know, or somebody else will, when I finally kick off, but in the mean time, you're just going to have to put up with me and hope that I don't make too much of a fool of myself in the meantime).

Family History
The house de Rosier-Blanc originated in 1440 with my grandfather Joseph de Rosier-Blanc. Born to unknown parents he was brought to the monks of a North-western French monastery, The Abbaye de Rhuysa, when he was found wandering in the woods by nearby farmers. It was presumed that he must have luckily survived a flux which destroyed the rest of his family leaving him orphaned. The monks took him in and over the late years of the 100 Years war taught the boy and found him an apt learner, and very talented in the garden. His early childhood he spent hours helping tend the crops of the monastery, but in his spare time he became a pupil of Père Laurent who’s special interest was the relatively new art of hybridizing roses through seeds. Joseph learned quickly and by the time he was a young teen he too was creating new and beautiful varieties of rose bushes. He was especially fond of white roses. As reached his teen years, it became increasingly clear that Joseph would not be able to live a chaste and pious life, and knew that soon, it would be time for him to seek his fortunes as a lay elsewhere. And in his 14th year, it was decided that as he had created the whitest of his roses yet, a single alba rose, that he should have a surname that suited his clear calling in life – creator of white roses – de Rosier-Blanc.

In the final year of the war as the English were being decisively driven from France, Richard, Duke of York happened to stay in the town just near the monastery, and in the inn that evening he heard tell of the talents of Joseph and was struck by the beauty of the white roses growing abundantly around the inn’s garden. As the white rose was key device of the York household, Richard decided to bring back this youth to continue his work on his estates in York.

Joseph was thrilled with his new lord and quickly went to work creating a garden full of the newest hybrid he had created, “Alba Maxima,” a great quartered white rose that would befit the house of York. Within 6 years, he’d been granted a small holding and went back to France briefly to marry a young maiden he had fallen in love with in the town near the monastery where he had grown up. And soon, they had a son whom they named Benjamin. Like his father, Benjamin spent all his days in the garden and he too showed amazing skill at creating new beautiful varietals. His favorite though, were not the wonderful white roses that had been the founding of the family name, was the red rose. As he became more proficient in his early teens, in the midst of the years of the War of the Roses, it became more and more an embarrassment to the house of York that red rose bushes, the emblem of their enemy house Lancaster, kept appearing in the gardens of the York family rosier. To keep Benjamin safe, Joseph requests that Père Laurent who originally taught him to take in Benjamin and teach him in exchange for help for the now aged monk. The request is honored and a 12 year old Benjamin is sent back to Brittany to l’Abbaye de Rhuys. He remains in the tutelage of the Père Laurent until he was 17.

During this time, Benjamin struck up a friendship with one Henry Tudor, who was living in exile in Brittany. Finally, after one failed attempt, in 1485, Henry Tudor finally ended the War of the Roses by usurping the crown and becoming King Henry VII of England. Early in 1486, he took Elizabeth of York to be his bride and through marriage unified the two previously warring houses and this was symbolized by the newly created heraldic Tudor Rose, a white rose at the center surrounded by a red rose. It was shortly after this that Benjamin received an invitation from his friend Henry to come and join his court as royal rosier. Henry was generous and honored Benjamin with his choice of courtesans to choose as a wife, and a section of land on which he could work on his latest task, to create a real rose that matched the heraldic emblem.

David de Rosier-Blanc is Born
Benjamin soon married and in 1492 the same year his father Joseph died, he and his wife had their first son David. Blessed again with the green thumb and formidable interest in roses, like his fathers before him, David grew up in the rose gardens his father created. He too took up the task laid upon his father and even after the throne was handed off to Henry VIII in 1509, the family remained strongly favored by the throne.

Early in Henry VIII’s reign when he granted Cardinal Woolsey the area of land where Hampton Court, as a 22nd birthday present to David, he was granted an adjoining area in which to continue the work of hybridizing a “Tudor rose”. Despite endless attempts, Benjamin and David continued to produce hundreds of varietals, pink roses, white roses with red tips, roses that were red on the top and white underneath, even some roses that were sports, having red and white striped petals, but were never able to create the perfect Tudor Rose.

It was during the period of time while Cardinal Woolsey was in favor with Henry that David met a young Scottish lady Jennet MacLachlan of Loch Fyne and they were married in 1514. It is now some 14 years later, and though the couple's relationship is strong, the declining favor of Henry towards Woolsey is creating some worries in their lives given their close proximity to Hampton Court Palace. Should Woolsey fall from grace, and the palace be placed in the wrong hands, all of the David's work might be in jeopardy...

Secret Life...
Over the years since he lived, a strange set of incongruities have surfaced about David's life. While his contributions to the art of hybridizing roses have been well documented, there are many aspects of his life which, until recently, didn't fit.

One such aspect was the rather astonishing large collection of original masterworks of art that were part of the Rosier-Blanc collection. While he was a member of the court, his continued failure to create the vaunted "Tudor Rose" didn't really leave him in good books with Henry. As a result, the lavish generosity which was bestowed on others of the court were not bestowed on David. Which then made his ability to accumulate such a vast collection of paintings, sculptures and other original rarities completely explanation defying.

It wasn't until recently that seemingly disparate historical facts have come to light that, when properly viewed, explain the wealth discrepancy.

It has been noted that during the years that Woolsey was turning Hampton Court into a veritable palace, his grounds-keepers tended to maintain the vast surrounding manicured grass areas by means of an astoundingly large herd of sheep. The size of the herd was so enormous that, in those years, no complete accurate count could be accomplished. As a result, and to avoid the ire of Woolsey, his grounds-keepers simply avoided documenting anything about the herd. But it is known that in order to keep the many servants of Woolsey's household fed, these sheep were harvested as food for the household staff, and occasionally for Woolsey himself, who had a taste for sweetbreads.

These sheep tended to, as sheep are likely to do, escape the confines of the Hampton Court grounds, and stray into the nummy delicious rose gardens of the adjoining de Rosier-Blanc estate, engendering the ire of David who would find his bushes stripped of buds, leaves, and tender new growth by these incursions. There is one brief note in Jennet's diary of being surprised one morning to look out of her window to see David standing with a bloody knife in one hand, over a freshly slain sheep in the rose garden. What has been left unrecorded is the fact that this was just the beginning...

Apparently, in an attempt to hide his transgression, and for fear of being discovered as the source of "odd disappearances" of Woolsey's sheep, David had taken to harvesting the meat of such invaders into his domain as being food for his own household. And in an effort to hide all evidence, he had taken to placing the hides into barrels of hydrated lime (which was on hand for sweetening the soil of his rose gardens) until they dissolved completely. Unfortunately, the volume of hides began to outpace his ability to eradicate their existence. He had to find an alternative solution.

It was in 1518 that David noted in his own personal diary that he took an excursion to a nearby parchmentorium. The experience clearly had considerable importance for him because notes of such outings were rarely documented in his copious scribblings about roses. But about a year later, it was noted that one of the first major pieces of art appeared as a gift to Jennet in the de Rosier-Blanc house. The correlation hadn't been made until quite recently that at the same time, there was a vast increase of purchasing of lime in the ledgers of the gardens. At the same time, wood had been purchased, which had been presumed to be needed for some trellis building to support some of the climbing roses that had been created. And... there was an odd set of expenses for "tools" to a nearby blacksmith, again attributed to pruners or other such implements that would have been necessary to the maintenance of the roses.

But, it has been discovered that at the same time, the nearby parchmentorium's ability to fulfill orders suddenly started improving. In a single year, their production moved from being barely able to keep up, to sufficient to make it possible for every decree, every deed, every warrant to be issued on vellum. So much was available that local magistrates were given to make it law that all the most important documents should continue to be scribed on vellum for longevity, not paper, as it was known to degrade too quickly.

Finally, the mysterious correspondence between all these facts has been made clear. In order to hide his hides, David took to producing vast quantities of vellum in the garden sheds around the rose garden areas. He would then send servants off on their weekly trip to the local parchmentorium with their rolls, and return with sacks of money. Meanwhile, the necessity to procure hides had outstripped the straying sheep and other servants were sent off on daily reconnoiters to the midden at Hampton Court to salvage off hides from the sheep being slaughtered for the court servants' food. As it was common for offal and hides to disappear from the midden by carrion activity, no thought was given to the more consistent disappearance of hides.

From records kept by the Worshipful Company of Skinners at the time, of which records of outgoing hide sales to the parchmenter near to Hampton were noted, there was a vast shortfall of sufficient material being purchased to explain the mass improvement of production of vellum. It is now widely accepted that the unexplained wealth of the de Rosier-Blanc household, the seeming control on the size of the Hampton Court herd, and the abundance of vellum rest solely on the secret pass-time of David...

Finally, a good explanation exists as to why he chose a Vegetable Lamb as his device rather than a white rose.