Meet William III, one of either a ‘double red’ or ‘double dark-coloured Scotch rose’ that Joseph Sabine first described in 1822 in the Horticultural Society of London Journal, as British researcher, historian and former museums curator Peter Boyd recounts:

‘Amongst the modern additions to the ornaments of our gardens, the varieties of Double Scotch Roses stand deservedly very high in estimation; their beauty is undisputed, and as they come into flower full three weeks before the general collection of garden Roses, they thus protract the period of our enjoyment of this delightful genus.’

This cultivar of Rosa pimpinellifolia (also known as R. spinosissima) was generously given to me by Kiewa Valley plantsman @alanayton when, in autumn 2018, he offered a fine selection of plants he’d grown to our @opengardensvictoria visitors.

Short, and bristling with hair-like thorns, William III was unknown by this name before the late nineteenth century.

Peter Boyd, writing in 2019 for @historic_roses_group blog, said nineteenth and early twentieth century nurseries sold both named Scots Rose cultivars and collections of mixed un-named seedlings.

‘…There may be Scots Roses in old gardens that never had a unique name. Many of the names used today such as ‘Glory of Edzell’, ‘Mary Queen of Scots’ and ‘William III’ are absent from nursery catalogue or other lists of rose varieties earlier than the twentieth century and are probably new names applied to cultivars that had another name or no name when they were raised…’

Willem III (1650-1702) was stadholder and prince of Orange who, with his wife Mary, daughter of James, duke of York (who ruled briefly as James II of England and VII of Scotland), became Britain’s joint sovereigns as William III and Mary II after the Glorious Revolution of 1689. They were first cousins and grandchildren of Charles I.


William III and Mary II, from an engraving by R. White 1690. [National Army Museum UK]