ROYAL LOVERS OF FLOWERS.
Otago Witness , Issue 2515, 28 May 1902, Page 66
ROYAL LOVERS OF FLOWERS.
Many Royal ladies have found charm and solace m flowers. The Empi-ess Eugenic, in the palmy days of her reign, used sometimes to be called the""Empress of Flowers." The Parisians loved to watch her blop her carriage at the Madeleine steps, while she descended to pick her way among the market women's baskets. She did not hold her hand until she had piled the front seat high with roses or lilies or violets ; afterwards driven in the Bois or through the streets enjoying the scent and sight of their loveliness. Her rooms at the Tuileries and St. Cloud were always filled with flowers ; and at Compiegne and Pierrefonds she had her special garden ground, where she reared the plints she best loved.
In this, as in many other things, she resembled her predecessor Josephine, that other woman born outside "the purple" who sat on the throne of France. The Empress Josephine reckoned her gardens as the most precious of all possessions. She owned the most splendid jewels in Christendom, but she used to say, and say truly, that she valued a new or rare flower above any diamond in her caskets. Her terrible husband, when he wished to please her, would add to her hothouses at- Malmaison, or stuff her reticule with notes to pay for the bulbs or orchids which she coveted. And hers was not the selfish love of a mere collector, but .what her biographer calls "the bountiful joy of one who longs to share the treasures with all the world."
The hothouses at Malmaison were modelled on those at Kew — which, however, they surpassed in extent and beauty. Josephine collected here exotics from every clime, especially from her dear Martinique — the island home she never ceased to love. The Minister of Marine had Napoleon's special orders to instruct all the admirals and captains to firing back plants for the Empress ; and the far-off isles of the Indies, and iha twuiical tlum>s Jroni Jiva. to
' Brazil, were rifled of their flowers to fill those glass palaces of Josephine. Often the English seized the French ships, and the spoils were carried off to Britain. Then, with one of tho^e scraps of contrasting courtesy that are so often found in the annals of every war, the I Prince Regent would send the plants by special messenger to Malinaison, ' r the gallant homage of a courtly enemy to the charming tastes of a universally-admired ', woman" — so runs the note attached to one of these parcels. Monsieur Aime Bonpland. the Empress's curator, -was an accomplished naturalist. He had been with Humboldt in South America, and boasted that he had brought thence 6000 new plants. He was manager of the Imperial Garden"? at Malmaison and Navarre, and after the death of his mistress published a very beautiful book, in three sumptuous volume?, with an account of the plants Josephine had been the means of introducing to Europe. Among them is the camellia and the catalpa, while her maiden name — De la" Pagerie — is attached for ever to the lapageria. that lovely creeper which hangs its white or crimson Veils over the roofs of our greenhouse* in such lavish profusion all through the autumn. Josephine specially loved that flower, which reminded her of her home in Martinique.