toxic vanity

Mary’s wedding bouquet / John and Sherlock’s boutonnieres

Working on Mary’s brooch made me realize the importance of flowers and their subtextual meaning in the show. Moftiss know their subtext and how to use Victorian symbolism to convey discrete messages.

Knowing how important the language of flowers (or floriography) was in Victorian England, it seems quite relevant to analyse the flowers at John and Mary’s wedding.

I won’t claim to be a specialist in flowers, so I took long time and careful research on this meta. However, if anyone with better knowledge see something else, please let me know right away! :)

I. Mary’s wedding bouquet

It seems to me the message conveyed by Mary’s wedding will tell us a lot about John’s and Mary’s relationship situation and feelings regarding the wedding (and, more specifically, John’s feeling on his wedding and his relationship with Mary, as the wedding and the entire episode are more about John & Sherlock than John & Mary).

In this rich white bouquet, I can discern the following flowers:

  • Lily-of-the-valley
  • Arum/Calla Lily/Trumpet Flower
  • 3 white ruffled roses
  • Sweet pea
  • Forget-me-not (5-leaved white flowers) 
  • White hydrangea (yellow-white cone of flowers, 4-leaved white flowers)
  • Fern

It seems to me some of (all of?) the 4-leaved flowers are white lilac, especially since there’s a direct mention of “lilac” (as a colour) related to the wedding. I believe hydrangea is still present in the bouquet (as a cone, and perhaps flowers).

Mary’s bouquet & Language of flowers

There are many flowers, so combined together, they form a subtile complex message.

First, let’s take each flower one by one:

  • Lily of the valley: sweetness, tears of Virgin Mary (toxic plant, traditional)
  • Arum: beauty, overcoming challenges, beauty always comes back, rebirth, Virgin Mary (toxic plant, traditional at weddings)
  • White rose: purity, innoncence, fear, new beginnings (traditional), Virgin Mary & flower of light
  • Sweet pea: goodbye, departure, new beginnings, thank you for a lovely time (candy-scent, traditional)
  • White forget-me-not: “do not forget me”, remembrance of a true and undying love (”scorpion grass”, toxic plant)
  • White hydrangea: vanity, heartlessness, a boaster
  • White lilac: youthful innocence, reminder of an old flame.
  • Fern: fascination

Several flowers are toxic or poisonous; interestingly, several flowers are associated with Virgin Mary.

Also, two flowers seem to instantly stand out, in my opinion: forget-me-not and hydrangea. Those are not traditional wedding flowers, unlike the rest (and we know how Mary wants her wedding to be traditional, see the invitation cards with John’s middle name) and they seem to convey a sad/negative message.

1) White Forget-me-not

Also known as the scorpion grass, this flower is a toxic plant. It symbolises the remembrance of true and undying love during partings or after death. These flowers show a connection that lasts through time; fidelity and loyalty in a relationship, despite separation or challenges.

They also represent memories you don’t want to forget. John went on with the wedding because he wanted to show he has moved on from Sherlock… but John doesn’t want to forget his amazing life with the man he loves. 

This symbol could also apply to Mary. My first thought when I saw the flower’s name was the bride’s song in TAB: “Do not forget me… do not forget me…”. The (abominable) bride = Mary and we shouldn’t forget about Mary’s past.

There is a reference to Mary’s family at the wedding => what about it? Is Mary still loyal to her family or a lost lover? Where does Mary’s fidelity lie?

2) Hydrangea

The flower’s Victorian meaning is clear: vanity, heartlessness, boaster.

These characteristics (vanity, arrogance, cold manipulation) suit Mary quite well, especially from HLV. Also, “boaster” instantly made me think of “Sir Boast-A-Lot”, Moriarty’s words. This reference will be used later in association with Janine (Mary’s bridesmaid and most likely associate/partner?): “Shag-A-Lot Holmes”.

3) Lilac flower

“Reminder of an old flame/first love”.

This flower’s meaning works well with forget-me-not and highlights its message. It seems both John and Mary can’t help but pine after another beloved at their wedding. Their minds and hearts are longing for another love.

“Lilac” is explicitly tied to two characters in TSOT: Sherlock played a part in choosing the colour for the wedding (btw, does Sherlock know the language of flowers? why would “lilac” be especially meaningful to remind John otherwise?), and Janine (bridesmaids wear lilac, and the only bridesmaid we know is Janine).

It’s also interesting to note lilac produces a nectar favoured by bees. Both Sherlock and Janine are linked with bees; it’s common knowledge Holmes finishes his days as a happy beekeeper in Sussex at Watson’s side in ADC canon (and Mycroft calls Sherlock a “busy little bee” in TEH), and Janine has bought a cottage with beehives in Sussex.

Sherlock’s association with bees is positive: he is compared to them and will end up taking care of them. Janine’s association with bees is destructive: she wants to get rid of the beehives. => John’s love for Sherlock is positive, Mary’s love for Janine is destructive?

Lilac is also a flower and a colour associated with death. It was common for widows to wear lilac flowers in Victorian times. Pale lilac (blue-ish and paler than Janine’s dress) was a colour associated with mourning. Lilac flowers are known to have a short but vibrant life and can be used to convey “enjoy love and life while you can”.

=> John has been mourning Sherlock (still is in the last stages in TSOT, tmo); Sherlock is mourning after his relationship with John; Mary is mourning someone (family? Moriarty? Janine?). Someone is going to die.

Combining the flowers respective meanings to understand the subtext linked to Mary’s bouquet:

Victorian lovers used to combine flowers to send complex messages about their feelings and intentions to their sweethearts.

1) From John’s perspective 

In this case, I believe we can separate:

  • Mary’s sweetness (Virgin Mary): white rose, lily of the valley, arum, lilac;
  • Mary’s characteristics since John knows her true identity: hydrangea, forget-me-not (past);
  • Hope tied to another undying love: forget-me-not, lilac, sweet pea.

Here is what I read:

White rose, arum, lily of the valley, lilac & fern => “Mary, your light, beauty and your pure, sweet and innocent character have fascinated me and taken me to a new departure, but I am afraid and you will cry”

Hydrangea, lilac & forget-me-not => “because of your past, your vanity, heartlessness and arrogance; and, most importantly the pure love I’ll never forget”

Sweet pea & forget me not => “I will depart soon to my beloved, my loyalty and fidelity lie with him”

I admit I’m biaised, but it makes sense, if you consider John’s relationship with Mary.

He falls for her sweetness and light (”She wasn’t supposed to be {a psychopath}”) and proceeds with the wedding even if he’s not ready and frightened. However, as he discovers Mary’s true identity and her arrogant selfish character, he doesn’t feel connected to her anymore. But this whole time, he’s never forgotten Sherlock or his love for the man. His loyalty will always lie with him. Soon, Mary and John will be over and John will be reunited with his true love.

And, btw, it’s interesting to note Mary holds the bouquet with her left hand the entire time, which was a sign of refusal (or negative response) in Victorian era. Mary is an ennemy of Johnlock.

2) From Mary’s perspective

We have to rearrange the flowers’ meaning to read the message about Mary’s character and her fate.

  • White rose (love, Virgin Mary), fern, lily of the valley (rebirth, tears of Virgin Mary) => ”I’ve been fascinated about creating this new identity, playing the role of a Madonna and falling in love with John. However, I will cry.”
  • Hydrangea (vanity), forget-me-not (past) => “Because of my vanity, my past, and most likely my connection to Moriarty (and my other true love: Janine, also connected with Moriarty),”
  • Sweet pea (departure), lilac (death & mourning), white rose (death, funeral) => “I will die soon.”

Mary enjoys her life as John’s fiancée, she loves John and this sweet, innocent and witty person she’s playing. However, her own vanity and the “problems of her past” will cause her demise. Mary’s end will come with her death.

Mary’s crown

I believe Mary’s crown is composed with:

  • White lilac
  • perhaps hydrangea?
  • A white flower with proeminent stamens => could be mock orange, anemone, peony?

It is important to see how the crown links lilac to Mary. It highlights the flower’s message and connects it to her: Mary is pining after an old love, and she is further tied to death and “short life” subtext. Mary’s crown strengthens my belief about Mary’s death.

I’m not able to properly identify the other flowers (even though I firmly believe there’s some mock orange for the added fluffiness?), but:

  • Mock orange = deceit (Mary Mostan is fake)
  • White anemone = estrangement, loss of a loved one, forsaken or forgotten love, expectation, brevity, bad luck (=> again a reference to Mary’s lost love and brief life?)
  • White peony = shame, regret, anger/indignation, love between two strangers

I think there ought to be some peony in Mary’s crown, as I’ve just discovered there’s a species of Peony named “Claire de Lune.

In Greek mythology, nymphs used peonies to hide their nakedness. (= Mary hiding her true identity). There are also beloved flower in eastern country (=> association with the East Wind?). “Love between two strangers” = John and Mary don’t know each other.

*If anyone recognizes the flowers on Mary’s crown, please share your knowledge! :)*

II. John & Sherlock’s boutonniere: Johnlock will come soon

John and Sherlock wear exactly the same boutonniere, which is common for two grooms getting married, not so much groom/best man.

Riiiiiiiight… moving on :D

The two men wear the boutonniere and its message on their hearts, so the combinaison of flowers is especially meaningful and important. John and Sherlock’s respective hearts are on the same page: they share the same feelings and secret meanings.

On the boutonniere, we can observe:

  • a full-bloom white sweetheart rose
  • a few lily-of-the-valley
  • blue forget-me-not flowers and leaf
  • ivy
  • a pink/lilac ribbon

What could this mean?

  • Lilac ribbon, knotted on the right (=message about the recipient) => gay love, tenderness
  • Sweetheart rose => dear, darling, honey, sweetheart
  • White rose => pure love, beauty, I am worthy of you, secret/silent love, fear.
  • Forget-me-not (blue) => true love, I don’t forget you, remembrance, memories I don’t want to forget
  • Ivy => Wedded love (!!), fidelity affection,
  • Lily-of-the-valley => tears of Virgin Mary, imminent return of happiness

Blue Forget-me-not:

Blue is the flower’s natural colour.

The flowers were first mentioned in a legend: a man and his sweetheart were walking along the River Danube, when they saw the beautiful blue flowers on an islet in the middle of water. The man leapt in the water to get the flowers to his love, but the strong current swept him away on his trip back. Before he disappeared, he threw the bouquet to his love and shouted not to forget him. She wore the flowers in her hair until the day she died and never forgot him

I see a parallel with John and Sherlock’s arc => Sherlock leaps from a roof to save John (gets into danger to give his love something precious). He does save John, but when he returns, the current/the East Wind/Mary/Moriarty takes him away from fully reuniting with his true love (John). However, John hasn’t forgotten Sherlock. This is their situation in TSOT, but the two men will have a better fate than the Danube sweethearts =)

Deciphering the boutonniere’s subtext

Combined together, we can see the beautiful message conveyed by John and Sherlock’s respective hearts: “I don’t forget you, my true love; I am afraid and love you in secret, but my love is pure and true; you are my dearest sweetheart; our happiness will come soon; I’ll marry you and always will be loyal to you, my love”.

#johnlock is canon

So, John and Sherlock both wear declaration of true love and sweet promises to each other on their heart. Even at John’s wedding, despite the hurt and grief, they can’t help but think about each other and a happy future together.

The show promises us, despite John and Mary’s relationship, that pure love will prevail and our heroes will have their happy ever after. Also, John and Mary’s wedding, ironically, announces John and Sherlock’s future wedding.

Added remarks:

  • In Wales, white roses are often placed on the grave of a young child (the real Mary Morstan is a stillborn. Also, a clue about Baby Watson’s fate?).
  • John and Sherlock’s boutonnieres: blue forget-me-not or heliotropes (devotion and faithfulness)?
  • The wedding bouquet and boutonnieres have 3 flowers in common => white rose (pure love, fear), forget-me-not (remembrance of a true undying love), lily-of-the-valley (imminent return of happiness). These particular flowers’ message is about John and Sherlock.

Gorgeous people being amazing: @just-sort-of-happened, @beejohnlocked, @tjlcisthenewsexy, @byebyefrost, @sherlock-little-weed