Sweet violet: A short story of romance

by zoe | 10.03.2014 | flower , violet , plant of the week , viola odorata , sweet violet , viola , romance | 0 comments | Rating: 3 votes

Viola odorata

Viola odorata

Viola odorata

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“You to whom nature has given spirit, sweetness and beauty; you who alone can move and rule my heart…” Napoleon Bonaparte, 1797

The sweet violet , or sweet pansy, has heart-shaped dark green leaves, a strong attractive scent and some deep violet (or sometimes white) flowers that cannot help but inspire romance. It has therefore had its place in romance throughout the ages – most notoriously, in the case of Napoleon Bonaparte and his very own sweet violet, Joséphine de Beauharnais.

Napoleon was short in stature but not in emotional devotion; he wrote long love letters to his beau Joséphine, even though she rarely replied (this was before the days of match.com). But when he did finally manage to woo her, sweet violets became symbolic of their marriage. Joséphine wore sweet violets on her wedding day, and Napoleon sent her a bouquet of the flowers every anniversary. After her death, Napoleon visited Joséphine’s tomb and picked sweet violets next to where she was buried. These were found, along with a lock of hair, in a locket worn  on his neck when he died.

Perhaps in a tribute to her, when he was exiled, Napoleon addressed his Imperial Guard with the words “I would embrace every one of you to display my affection, but I will kiss this flag, for it represents all of you. But know that I shall return to France when the violets will bloom.“ Violets became political symbols of support for the return of Napoleon to the throne, and later for the return of a member of his family to the Government.

Interestingly, Napoleon’s second wife, Marie Louise of Austria, the Duchess of Parma, was also a great fan of violets. She used it in her signature and often wrote in violet ink. She also asked the monks at the Monastery of the Annunciata to distill its scent into a perfume. Violets were soon grown in abundance in Parma, so it was due to her that the ‘Parma Violet‘ became one of the world’s most popular perfumes... and, unfortunately, one of the world’s most repulsive sweets...

Image source: --Tico-- (some rights reserved)


Written by zoe

I think that I shall never see A poem lovely as a tree - Joyce Kilmer (1913)

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