Emma Watson, Elizabeth Taylor, Emilia Clarke, Kate Middleton, Helen Mirren. Widely acknowledged as beautiful women, they all have more in common than just their celebrated beauty. They have all also been revered as an English Rose. From the majestic Helen Mirren through to our future Queen Kate, the ideal of the English Rose has remained the same. Yet while the checklist of characteristics required to be deemed as beautiful and an English Rose have remained the same, the society in which we live in has changed drastically.
Britain is one of the most multicultural countries in the world. We have accepted and enjoyed many of immigration’s influences over the past sixty years. But is it time to take it a step further, and accept that if chicken tikka masala can consistently be voted as one of the top British dishes, a woman of Indian descent, or any woman who is English by birthright and is perceived as beautiful, but without fitting the dictated mould, could and should be labelled as an English Rose?
While I don’t claim to be a beauty, as a mixed race young woman, with my curly dark hair, coffee coloured skin and thick thighs, I am aware that I am far from the image of an English rose. I have some beautiful friends, but because they’re black, or ginger, or too tall, they do not live up to what is demanded to be easily accepted as a stunner. This past year, this has been brought to the forefront with the media’s attention on the revelation of Prince Harry’s girlfriend, actress Meghan Markle. Harry, already has felt the need to defend Markle from attacks from the media, whose behaviour around the issue caused ‘a line to be crossed’ in his eyes. Let’s say things go very well for the very attractive couple, and who knows, she is the newest addition to the Royal Family, she will become an English princess. Markle is frequently discussed with references to her beauty, her Instagram is full of fans’ gushing comments, but while Kate was so readily taken into the hearts of the country and seen as the perfect combination of beauty and purity suitable for a princess, for the label English Rose, it is highly unlikely Meghan Markle will experience the same enthusiasm. She is too sexy, too American, very divorced. And of course too black. But the increased support the couple are experiencing, with TV shows about them, news articles about a first public appearance, could be indications of that a change is afoot. And if she were to be accepted, her beauty used to redefine our notion of an English princess, and an English Rose, that would be a game changer for all those women who do not exist within the lines of the concept of an English Rose.
It is time to stop categorising and defining different types of beauty. Pretty is pretty, beautiful is just beautiful. It is time to appreciate all beauties under a label that has for so long been exclusive for a very specific type of woman. The English Rose label should continue to include the original beauties, but it can also include so many more. So let the changing face of our constantly evolving multicultural society be reflected in our ideas of beauty, and the changing face of the English Rose.