One of the odder secret societies of Victorian Britain, the Order of the White Rose was founded in 1886 in London under the leadership of Bertram, Earl of Ashburnham (1840–1913) for the purpose of promoting the restoration of the House of Stuart to the British throne. The Stuart heir at that point was Princess Maria of Bavaria, a descendant of one of Charles I’s daughters, while the reigning monarch, Queen Victoria, was a descendant of Charles I’s sister; this may not seem like much of a distinction, but in the hothouse world of Victorian Jacobitism it served as a lightning rod for romantic fantasies and a reactionary political agenda. See Jacobites.
The order took its name from the white rose of York, the badge of the Stuart house during the Jacobite rebellions. Its formal purpose was to work for the restoration of the Stuart line to the British throne, to oppose all democratic tendencies, and to support the theory of the absolute power of kings by divine right. It established a newspaper, The Royalist, and had branches in Canada and the United States. In 1889 it arranged an exhibition on the history of the Stuarts in London, but contemporary magazine articles dismissed it as a “sleepy little society” more fond of ritual than practical action.
The Order of the White Rose had close connections to legitimist and reactionary political movements across Europe, but these international ties became its downfall. In 1914, at the outbreak of the First World War, members of the Order were appalled to hear that Prince Ruprecht of Bavaria, whom they considered Duke of Cornwall and Prince Consort to the Stuart queen Mary IV, had been appointed commander of the German forces. The Order promptly dissolved and has not been refounded since.
The Element Encyclopedia of Secret Societies : the ultimate a-z of ancient mysteries, lost civilizations and forgotten wisdom written by John Michael Greer – © John Michael Greer 2006