If only all revelations were as beautiful as this rose. Like many roses, she has multiple names. I found her by searching under the term ‘revelation’, with her full name of ‘Sweet Revelation’. She is also known as Chimene, Sue Hipkin or Hipken, and as Lady Jane Grey. She was bred by Harkness, and released in 1998. Harkness describes this rose as growing a metre high and sixty five centimetres wide, with a powerful scent and a unique bronze colour. In their catalogue, she is Sue Hipkin.
This post started because I’d had an unwelcome revelation relating to my diabetes. While researching something that I thought was entirely unrelated, I discovered that my risk of developing diabetes had always been higher because I had never been breastfed. Children taken for adoption in the secret era usually weren’t.
Add another black mark to the experience of adoption.
What really astounded me was the coincidence between this rose’s names. When I was in primary school, I would often stay at my grandparent’s house where I liked to read their old books. That was how I discovered the story of Lady Jane Grey, Queen of England for a mere nine days. With ruthless manoeuvring, her parents put her on the throne following the death of Henry VIII’s son Edward in an attempt to keep Henry’s Catholic first born daughter, Mary, off the throne.
My grandparents were fiercely Protestant, or fiercely anti Catholic, and Jane’s story has been largely cast against this political background religious hatred and intolerance. This is not what struck me as a kid. I was being brought up to be irreligious, and the words Protestant and Catholic were just that, words.
Through her mother’s family, Jane had kinship with the Royal family. She and Henry VIII’s heir, Edward, were cousins. This lineage of hers turned out to be deadly. Jane might not have been beheaded if it were not for her father, in particular. His refusal to give up his ambition for power is what cost his daughter her life. It was the first time that I truly understood, with both my head and my heart, that family can indeed be dangerous.
While I was troubled and fascinated by the story of Jane all at the same time, the revelation helped me. It gave me a safe historical context to think about the purpose of families, and about how parents were supposed to behave. Not that this is a topic which I would ever have aired within my adoptive family. The subject was strictly verboten, and as the Australian research shows, those children who did not feel encouraged to talk about it, were more likely to have mental health issues later in life. So I struggled to find a way to come to terms with the knowledge that my parents had given me away. The concept that ‘family is dangerous’ that I formed after learning of Jane Grey’s fate helped me to understand that maybe the fault wasn’t with me. Just maybe, I was the innocent party instead of fault laden, defective child that I thought I was.
Was it a sweet revelation, as this rose’s name suggests? Ultimately, they both were. For the first, I feel more exonerated of the shame of having developed a chronic disease at so young an age. For the second, I remember the relief of my child self. It didn’t solve the situation I was in, and remain in, but it gave me a different, and more positive, perspective.