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The Significance of Rosemary in Queen Elizabeth the Second's Casket Wreath

Blog: September 19, 2022

If you have been following the media coverage of Queen Elizabeth the Second’s 10 Days of Mourning you may have noticed the abundance of symbolism that has been incorporated into the various aspects.

One thing that you may not have noticed was the wreath on top of the caskets. Much thought went into the various components, with flowers coming from the various estates. Myrtle was incorporated also, as it was carried in her wedding bouquet. One plant's sprigs that you may not have noticed was rosemary.

Rosemary has a long association with funerals and death. It is a custom of our ancestors that stretch back thousands of years. It is an evergreen and represents immortality and remembrance. As far back as 1000BC the ancient Egyptians used rosemary and other essential oils to embalm the bodies of the dead. The ancient Romans brought rosemary with them during funeral processions and then left the sprigs with the body. This ritual continued until the early 20th century. When sprigs of rosemary were place in the corpse’s hands. Sprigs of rosemary were thrown into the grave before soil was cast. The scent of rosemary was originally welcome at funerals to mask the scent of the corpse.

There is strong symbolism in rosemary, the herb of remembrance. It is a visual reminder of the memories of the person who has died. Rosemary also has a long association with eternal love and eternal life. Ophelia mentions rosemary in Hamlet, “There's rosemary, that's for remembrance. Pray you, love, remember. And there is pansies, that's for thoughts." Rosemary represents eternal love as well as eternal life. You can always show your respect by wearing a rosemary sprig to a funeral or memorial service or place a pot of it on a grave marker instead of flowers.

In conclusion, I quote Sir Thomas More, and early 16th century English statesman and politician, “Whence a sprig of it hath a dumb language that maketh it the chosen emblem of our funeral wakes and in our burial grounds.”

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