May Muguet Marathon: Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day to all who celebrate it! Just as May is the month for May Day and muguet, it is also the month when we recognize and appreciate mothers. So today, instead of commenting on a specific fragrance, I’d like to share a bit of Lily-of-the-Valley folklore. Apparently, one of its other names is “Our Lady’s Tears”, or “Mary’s Tears”. According to one website: “It was said that when Mary wept at the foot of the Cross, her tears fell to the ground and turned into the tiny fragrant blossoms of this early spring plant. In England it had the name “Our Lady’s Tears” because when viewed from a distance the white flowerets gave the appearance of teardrops falling.”

The featured image above (repeated below) is a portrait of Queen Victoria as a young mother on May Day, 1851, receiving a gift from the aged Duke of Wellington for her baby son, who is clutching a bunch of lilies of the valley! According to Wikipedia,

This picture shows the Duke of Wellington offering a gift to Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and Prince Arthur, in a scene resembling theAdoration of the Magi. The painting was commissioned by Queen Victoria to commemorate the 1st of May 1851, which held a threefold significance: it was the first birthday of Prince Arthur, the eighty-second birthday of the prince’s godfather the Duke of Wellington, and the opening day of the Great Exhibition. Prince Arthur holds Lily-of-the-valley, a traditional 1st of May gift said to bring good luck. The Crystal Palace can be seen in the background.

Queen Victoria on May Day 1851 receiving lilies of the valley from the Duke of Wellington, in a portrait by Winterhalter

Queen Victoria and her son with lilies of the valley and the Duke of Wellington on May Day 1851, by Winterhalter

Queen Victoria and the era to which she gave her name set many expectations and standards that are still brought to bear on mothers in Euro-centric cultures, some of which are quite sentimental and led to the creation of Mother’s Day as a holiday. So it seems fitting to recognize her today — and how wonderful to find a portrait like this that includes lilies-of-the-valley!

Finally, I can’t comment on Mother’s Day this year without sharing again my recent post on this end-stage of my own mother’s life: My Mother’s Last Perfume. I plan to see her again in a couple of weeks, but every visit for the past two years has had the potential of being the last one, so I treasure them while they also sadden me. I hope you can enjoy aspects of today’s holiday, no matter whether you are a parent or not and no matter what your history with your own mother has held or holds.

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