DID YOU KNOW?

8
DID YOU KNOW?


Did you know during slavery, the flower festivals went through periods of development and contraction?

In January 1819, three free men of colour were fined and three slaves were sentenced to nineteen lashes with a whip each for having organized a meeting in the name of ‘Roses Marguerites’, as the Procureur du Roi’s verdict termed it.

One Governor Keane queried the verdict, saying he saw no harm in people dressing up in carnivalesque costumes and assuming pretend names and titles, but the Procureur du Roi defended his decision as being in the interest of public security. He stated that secret gatherings of slaves in past years have distracted them from work and could have dangerous consequences.

Sunday dances were allowed but on expressed condition that they did not carry the title ‘Roses Marguerites’ and that the colours of these societies would not be displayed. The slaves promised to abide by this but, as the Procureur complained, instead of keeping to their word, they congregated instantly to select a king and other officers and invited participants to contribute small sums of money for the benefit of the flower societies. The Procureur du Roi responded by having six men arrested and punished and once again abolished all slave gatherings, including the Sunday dances. It was obvious that the authorities’ attitude towards the flower societies swayed between fear and indulgence, and periods of repression and tolerance varied accordingly.

Source: The History of St. Lucia by Harmsen, Ellis & Devaix – 2012
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
Did you know after Emancipation la Rose and la Marguerite organisations were in full bloom?

In 1840, the labouring population was split into rival camps to the point where, labourers from Anse Canot and Fond d’Or Estates resigned their employ and moved to the neighbouring Riche Fond Estate reportedly because the latter was a la Rose stronghold. The societies were active year round, not only on feast days.

Between 1840 and 1860, it was the money raised by the flower societies that built and extended Catholic churches island-wide. At Vieux Fort, the Roses helped build the belfry, while the Marguerites had much to do with the side aisle to the church. In Micoud, the Marguerites also made considerable contributions to the extension of the church between 1858 and 1860.

Source: The History of St. Lucia by Harmsen, Ellis & Devaix – 2012

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Did you know despite their generous support, church authorities did not enthusiastically embrace the flower societies?

The reason for that was not a lack of devotional enthusiasm, but rather an overabundance thereof. In the 1840s and 1850s la Rose and la Marguerite were so influential that everyone in society held allegiance to one group or another and the rivalry was intense. On more than one ocassion, the police had to intervene in order to resolve clashes between the two groups.

In August 1842, a dispute had arisen between the Queen of the Roses and a coloured woman, who was the advocate for the Marguerites. During the altercation the parties came to blows, and the robust queen inflicted a pair of black eyes upon her antagonist.

The matter was brought before the Chief Justice and the court house was crowded to suffocation by supporters of the accused. The Chief Justice wisely expressed his surprise that two respectable desmoiselles should have forgotten what was due to themselves, so as to assault each other in the public streets.

However, a year earlier, a fight between rival members during which recourse was to bludgeon, break bottles and other missiles had resulted in many broken bones and battered heads and the town was nearly set on fire by flambeaus. In 1840, la Marguerite members from Soufriѐre disturbed a la Rose meeting in Vieux Fort, and the riot which ensued was checked by the polce and order was restored.

These feuds were not just a form of hooliganism in support of one patron saint or another, they also reflected a difference in social outlook. The la Marguerite considered the la Rose common, showy and somewhat vulgar. Members of la Rose enjoyed movement and stimulation. They actually built their reputation by their dramatic performances in speech, playing, dancing, singing and drinking.

In the 1980s Joycelyn Guilbault described the la Marguerites as socially reserved, practicing Catholics and serious parents trying to give a solid and conventional education to their children. Many owned small businesses or were spouses of regularly employed workers, they spoke creole and English fluently and all could read and write.

In general, the la Marguerite members could be said to belong to the middle class of the St. Lucian society. At la Rose meetings (held on Saturdays) all sorts of spontaneous activities could take place but at la Marguerite meetings (held on Sundays), members sought to structure the events and preferred events to unfold more calmly.

Source: The History of St. Lucia by Harmsen, Ellis & Devaix – 2012
…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Did you know after 20 years of feting in the name of la Rose and la Marguerite, mounting objection within the church spilled over?

In 1860, Monsignor Ethelridge, the Apostolic Adminstrator of Port-of-Spain with jurisdiction over St. Lucia, judged that the flower societies’ extravagance, quarrelling and rioting had gone too far, so he excommunicated them both. Although the flower societies remained active, they could no longer associate their séances with the rituals of the church.

This resulted in some interesting spectacles, when in June 1892, the Soufriѐre parish priest was accused of damaging an English flag. He admitted to causing the damage, but claimed that it had been a flag of the la Marguerites.

“I walk towards the banner of the Marguerite society, and in order to make to be better understood by those around that they ought not to expose this flag during a fête so holy as Corpus Christi, I struck it one blow with the head of my umbrella. This single blow was sufficient to separate almost entirely two of the three bands which formed the flag.”

Excommunication did not stop the quarrelling, however in 1865, it was said that larceny was increasing in Soufriѐre due to the revival of old negro societies of Roses and Marguerites under the novel designations of Floridas and Dahlias.

Did you know the flower festivals of la Rose and la Marguerite, exist to this day, having gone through another folk revival in the 1970s? They no longer split the working class into rival camps, but their séances remain an exciting part of St. Lucia’s folk culture.

Few St. Lucians will not have heard of the late Dame Marie Selipha Descartes, our queen of culture, affectionately know as Sésenne and one of the greatest la Rose chantwѐls of the 20th century. Dame Sésenne passed away in August 2010.

Source: The History of St. Lucia by Harmsen, Ellis & Devaix – 2012
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

This feature runs every Tuesday and Thursday. It is compiled by daughter of the soil Anselma Aimable, a former agricultural officer and former correspondent for Caribbean Net News, who has a deep interest in local culture and history. Send ideas and tips to [email protected]

(3)(0)

No posts to display

8 COMMENTS

  1. VERY INTERESTING EVERY YEAR IN PRIMARY SCHOOL I TOOK PART IN LA MARGUERITE CELEBRATIONS ... THIS ARTICLE HELPED ME UNDERSTAND THE TRUE MEANING OF THE CELEBRATIONS..GREAT JOB AA

    (1)(0)

  2. I just love reading these parts of my history. It's almost like it takes you back to a time that you never knew exists, until now....great job guys... keep up the good work.

    (1)(0)

  3. Did not know , and to be honest i still don't know what the festivals are about and how they came to be

    (0)(0)

  4. This is a very informative article. Now I understand how this all came about. I like the rose festival very lively 🙂

    (1)(0)

Comments are closed.