As a child, I was told various legends that both originated and are popular in Portugal. Today I’m going to share with you the version of the Legend of the Miracle of Roses that was taught to me as a child.
The story starts with a marriage between a Portuguese king and a Spanish princess. The future queen, named Elizabeth, was said to be very religious, compassionate and cared for all people, especially the “undesirables” of the time. According to the legend, she would grab loaves of bread and hide them in her folded apron so the guard could not see what she what she had inside. Queen Elizabeth would bring the bread into the cities and would hand it out to those who were starving or extremely poor.
Meanwhile, an aristocrat who was close to the king had grown suspicious of the queen’s frequent trips into the city. When the aristocrat addressed the king, he stated that he knew about her visits into the city and wasn’t worried. However, the aristocrat did not trust the queen and began to follow her around to investigate what she was doing while on her visits. After this, he reported back to king to let him know that the queen was taking resources and food from the home and giving it away to the people in the city. The aristocrat made the queen sound like she was stealing and wasting the king’s wealth completely.
Upset and baffled, the king later stopped the queen on her way out one day, and questioned her about the contents in her apron. Knowing that she would be punished if he found out the truth of the situation, the queen sent up a silent prayer to Mother Mary and answered, “My Lord, it is roses for the church”. The king became very angry, as he knew the queen was lying, since it was winter and roses did not grow then. He immediately ordered the queen to empty the contents onto the floor if she was telling the truth. Reluctantly she did as he asked, and was relieved when roses covered with snow fell onto the ground.
This story is said to have been a representation of Mother Mary’s compassion towards the poor. This legend continues to be retold throughout various Portuguese-speaking communities.