This morning, with billions of other people, I watched HRH Prince William and Catherine Middleton tie the knot. I had to wake up at 4:55 am to do it, but I enjoyed every minute of the five hour coverage. Indigo and another friend slept over and we all ate cream scones that I had baked Thursday afternoon with imported clotted cream and raspberry jam. We drank PG Tips tea, England’s number one tea (according to the box), and I tried to squeeze a child-sized tiara from the dollar store onto my head. We were festive, the ceremony was beautiful, and I absolutely adored Kate’s dress.
I also learned two things about myself this morning: I am a huge Anglophile, and I am the reason my plants have been dying. The two don’t really seem related, but somehow while watching the Royal Wedding footage today, the connection clicked.
First, I have to say that I actually confirmed my love of all things British rather than discovered it. Hereditary peerages, a fixation with millinery, and an imperialist past have always fascinated me. Even my stepfather is British and I have visited the fair isle several times. I even used to practice speaking in an accent when I was little. So, when I found myself watching almost every special and news program about the wedding and the Royal Family, including the Lifetime movie version of William and Kate’s courtship, I was not surprised with myself. This morning was like Christmas; I could hardly fall asleep last night, knowing what awaited me this morning.
Like many Americans, I have been far more interested in following the wedding than one would imagine for a citizen of a democratic country that broke from Britain over 200 years ago. A correspondent on an E! news segment even admitted that Americans were far more excited about the wedding than the average Brit. In fact, Americans’ interest in the Royal Family and in the private lives of royals from Princess Diana, years ago, to her sons today borders on obsession. Why are Americans obsessed with an institution that goes against the fundamental principals that founded our nation? I can’t even begin to answer that question, nor will I attempt to. I merely mean to point out the fact that in America, monarchy, ritual protocol, and titles do not have a place. England is a nation we rebelled against and from which we fought a Revolution for freedom. That being said, I still have wedding fever.
This all connects to the plants in my house, somehow. (I promise this will all make sense eventually.)
I enjoy having plants and flowers around the house and for the past couple of years have bought and raised quite a few. I love my plants and even though it sounds unstable, I talk to them and give them unique names. My grandmother, who has not just a green thumb, but a green hand, is convinced that talking to her plants positively affected their growth. With a huge success rate and Christmas cacti that lived longer than I have so far, I have to agree with her, which is why I treat my plants more like pets. Plants, like people, need attention along with water and sunlight, and will not thrive if neglected. In this spirit, I have become very concerned as to why some of my plants are dying.Because of my aforementioned Anglophilia, I have been inclined to name my household plants after British monarchs. My magenta dendrobium orchid plant, George, was an impulse purchase at Trader Joe’s two years ago. At first, he was beautiful, blooming for at least six months, soaking up the sunlight from my bedroom window. Winter came, his blooms withered, and George was left with a nice, healthy bunch of green leaves and stalks. Then, the shriveling started. One by one, the green stalks browned and fell off, leaving the leaves holding on for their lives. Currently, George lives in my sunroom and is ailing from some kind of leaf disease that has already taken one of his limbs. When I named George, I didn’t really have a particular monarch in mind, but I’ll settle for calling him King George III (of American Revolution fame), who reigned from 1760 to 1820. I always felt bad for George III, who went mad and died both deaf and blind in 1820. His virility is also impressive, having sired fifteen children by his wife of 57 years, Queen Charlotte, to whom he was supposedly devoted. George’s neighbor in the sunroom is called Alfred, a peace lilly who was a present from my British cousin on her last visit to the States. Alfred was named for Alfred the Great, who reigned from 871 to 900. Defeating the Danes and defending England from invasion by building fortifications, Alfred the Great was also a Latin scholar, promoter of education, patron of the arts, and is known as the “Father of the English Navy.” Coming from a family of Navy recruits including my grandfather, uncle, and stepfather (in the Royal Navy), I thought him an appropriate King to name my plant after. Being a peace lily, Alfred was also an apt choice, since much of the latter half of Alfred the Great’s reign was peaceful. While Alfred is about seventy percent healthy, he has not been looking well for the past few weeks, sporting a few browned leaves, and having lost several stems to desiccation. There is also a fern, called Edward, who lives in my living room. Edward is named for King Edward I, who was also known as “Longshanks” because of his great height. Quite simply, Edward the plant is over two feet tall, a large height for any plant, sharing physical characteristics with the King. Beyond that, I can tell you that Edward I, who reigned from 1272 to 1307, was considered the most successful Medieval ruler because he reformed the government, consolidated territories, defined foreign policy, and had a sense of duty to protecting the welfare of his subjects. Edward, like his friends in the sunroom, is showing signs of desiccation and is buckling under the weight of his heavy leaves, perched atop flimsy stems.
There is also a Richard IV (Long story. And yes, there was no King Richard IV, but like I said, long story.), Napoleon, and Josephine, my two poinsettias (just to mix things up with some French rivalry).
So, what does any of this mean, you wonder? Well, while watching the royal wedding this morning and thinking about the American obsession with British royalty and my own Anglophilia, when by principle Americans should reject the monarchy as we did two hundred years ago, I had an epiphany. Deep down, my vegetational menagerie knows this aristophilia and monarchism goes against American values of democracy and hard work elevating a man over birthrights. My plants are literally wilting and languishing under the weight of their regal names and all of the associations that come with them. I am killing my plants by giving them names that they do not want to live up to.
Even my French plants are in on this Anti-British campaign. As notorious historic enemy of Great Britain, France was at one time our revolutionary brother, and while Napoleon’s despotic ways brought him self-proclaimed emperorship, he is still trying to stick it to the British in his plant form. The poinsettias are thriving, lending a leaf for the American cause by flaunting their vibrant appendages and stems in the British namesakes’ faces. In the battle of the windowsill, the French are winning, and I can’t help but wonder if my plants won’t just side with the loyalists for their own good.
What’s in a name? Apparently quite a lot.
For an excellent website with a virtual family tree of the British monarchy, check out British Royal Family History. Also, Britannia History has a comprehensive biography page of monarchs that is endlessly useful.