I think it’s interesting that the Queen Anne’s Lace of my childhood that grew in the open fields are now sold in flower shops and even found in garden centers. I loved these white cluster flowers and would bundle them into bouquets that found a place on the kitchen table. They did not look like weeds to me but I was told they were. I thought they were quite elegant. Perhaps it had something to do with their name. A queen and her lace seemed quite regal to me. The tall feathery stems bent with the breeze and the intricate lacey flower heads danced under the blue skies of summer. They were as lovely to me as the garden flowers surrounding our home.
Cultivated flower or weed, its royal name is a mystery. Folklore stories abound to support its lineage, but it is all speculation. With just a little research, some flower sites claim it was Queen Anne of England 1702-1714, to be the inspiration for this flower. It was said she was an expert lace maker and held contests within her court. The small pinkish flower in the center is supposed to represent a blood stain when she pricked her finger on a needle. But I doubt Queen Anne was sitting around her court creating new lace patterns. She had many health problems, many children, and most importantly, poor vision. There is never a reference to this skill in any historical bio that I could find.
Another possibility would be Anne of Denmark, the queen consort of Scotland, England, and Ireland as the wife of James VI in the 16th century. At least we know she had needle skills since it is known that she embroidered shirts for her husband- to- be when she was only fourteen. Her European background boasted more ornate dress than in England. The edging or “ruff” of lace collars became so huge they needed their own support system to hold them into place. Portraits of Queen Anne exhibit intricate lace collars on her clothes which give a little credence for naming this flower after her.
Others speculated this flower is named for Anne Boleyn, famous for losing her head. But the lace connection simply does not work and I dismissed it quickly.
Another theory is that it was named for Saint Anne, Mary’s Mother, and Grandmother to Jesus. In earlier times Saint Anne was referred to as “Queen of Heaven”. She is also the patron saint of mothers, pregnant women and lacemakers. But during the 16th century English Reformation, the Catholic Saints were pushed out of favor and it is very likely a “Queen” Anne was substituted for a “Saint” Anne.
I doubt we will ever know which Anne this flower is named for. What a lot of historical speculation for a flower that is considered invasive, a nuisance, and really just a weed. But these things do not diminish my love of this meadow flower. It will always remain “Queenly” in my mind, no matter its history.