Comtesse de Ruél” Lois, our housekeeper, always warned me never to bring lilacs into the house. It’s bad luck!,” writes the Countess du Ruel. This was a great sadness for me as in the late spring I love the scent of the pale mauve and white blooms and longed to put them into bowls in giant bunches to perfume the house. But, I still hear Lois’s warning, even now that she is long dead, and never have.

I always wondered why this delicious flower would carry such a curse. Now I know there is a fairly logical, if not rational, explanation. It seems that lilac with its intense scent was used in olden times to hide the smell of death A body lying in state was usually surrounded by highly perfumed lilacs, especially the stronger scented white ones, to mask any unpleasant odours. Until Victorian times white was the colour of mourning, so the white lilac had another reason for its doomed reputation. As white lilac much more rare than mauve and at those times was only seen when there was a death in the family, the mystery of the Curse of the White Lilac becomes clear.

My white lilac tree is covered with heavenly scented blooms, but I dare not bring them in for fear of creating a lamentable disaster. Pity!

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