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Queen Victoria’s myrtle: fact or fiction?

Fulham Palace’s four myrtle (Myrtus communis) plants outside our café are said to have been grown from a sprig taken from Queen Victoria’s wedding bouquet.

A Mediterranean evergreen shrub with fragrant white blossom, myrtle has been revered since ancient times for its scent and beauty, qualities which linked it with both Aphrodite and Venus (the Greek and Roman goddesses of love and beauty). The tradition of having myrtle in a wedding bouquet dates back centuries and it was traditional for a bride to take a cutting of her own family’s myrtle with her to her new home. In our case, Queen Victoria’s myrtle may have arrived at the Palace thanks to Bishop of London William Howley (1766-1848). Howley assisted at her baptism and in 1837, whilst Archbishop of Canterbury, informed her of the death of her uncle William IV and that she would henceforth be queen. He officiated at her marriage to Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in 1840, so perhaps she gave him a spring of myrtle as a thank you gift? Here our community archaeologist Alexis Haslam and garden apprentice Hattie Moore examine the evidence.