The White Rose of York

Today the white rose is one of the most common designs found around the streets of York.  The rose's association with the name 'York' goes back to medieval times when it was one of the badges worn by the followers of the 'House of York'.

However the link with the City of York is not as clear as it appears at first sight.  The 'House of York' was a line of aristocracy that was based, not in York, but mainly in the south of England and Wales.  The 15th century 'Wars of the Roses' between the House of York and the House of Lancaster had nothing to do with the geographical areas of Yorkshire and Lancashire.  There were few 'Yorkists' in York.  In fact, major Yorkshire land-owners were prominent supporters of the House of Lancaster.

It seems to have been the romantic Victorians who really forged the link between York and the white rose symbol.

It was in the 19th century that the rose really took off as a motif on the city's buildings.  The term 'Wars of the Roses' was first used in a novel by Walter Scott in 1829  (other House of York badges he could have chosen included the 'falcon and fetterlock', the 'sun in splendour' and the 'white boar', none of which would have sounded quite so catchy).  

Still more surprising is that the association of the white rose with the wider county of Yorkshire appears to be a mainly 20th century phenomenon.  Yorkshire's older towns, such as Leeds and Hull, don't use a rose in their arms but almost all Yorkshire civic arms registered in the last century feature it strongly.  The Yorkshire flag with the heraldic rose dates from the late 1960's and 'White Rose Day' was first celebrated in 1975.