Spoiler warning: Spoilers for Red, White, & Royal Blue follow. Red, White, & Royal Blue is officially here and ours to enjoy, four years after Casey McQuiston’s 2019 novel won the hearts of fans everywhere. And while I’m always on the lookout for the little details in the movies I love, from the differences between the RWRB movie and book to McQuiston’s surprise cameo, one small thing that caught my attention was Henry’s yellow rose tie at the end of the film — more specifically, the meaning behind it.
This detail actually comes straight from the novel, so props to the RWRB team for making sure it found its way onto the screen, too. One of the final scenes shows a nailbiter of an Election Night, and all the characters are waiting to find out if Alex’s mom, Ellen Claremont, will get to retain her position as U.S. President for another four years. In the middle of the action, Alex and Henry steal a moment together, and Henry calls attention to the tie he’s wearing, which has yellow roses on it.
Henry’s exact words in the novel are, “Yellow rose of Texas, is it? I read that was a thing. Thought it might be good luck,” and he essentially says the same thing in the movie. Both Book Alex and Movie Alex practically swoon over the gesture, but as someone not from Texas, I’ll admit — this reference totally went over my head. So what is the yellow rose of Texas?
To understand this good luck charm, you’ll need to know a bit about Texas history. “The Yellow Rose of Texas” is a folk song that dates back to the 19th century, according to Genius, though its origins are unsavory — it was conceptualized as a minstrel song to be performed in blackface, and was popular among Confederate soldiers in Texas during the Civil War. Over time, the racist overtones were removed to leave a song that has been rerecorded by multiple artists throughout the 20th century.
At first glance, the song itself appears to be about a beautiful Texan woman the singer is in love with and wants to return to after leaving her behind. But it actually has connections to the Texas Revolution in the 1830s, according to Texas Monthly. The “yellow rose” is Emily Morgan, AKA Emily D. West, an indentured servant who was captured by Mexican president Antonio López de Santa Anna.
As the legend goes, she was apparently so beautiful that Santa Anna was enamored with her, but she was also staunchly on Texas’ side. She supposedly got Santa Anna to leave his troops unprepared when American general Sam Houston’s forces attacked during the 1836 Battle of San Jacinto by tipping Houston off to Santa Anna’s location and then distracting Santa Anna so he could be defeated — according to the myth, he was busy trying to sleep with her instead of preparing for battle. (Yep.) While it’s unclear how much truth there really is to that story, if any, Emily is considered a sort of accidental heroine of the revolution, hence the significance of the yellow rose of Texas as a good luck sign.
This may not have been a reference you were expecting in Red, White, & Royal Blue of all places, but the Claremont-Diaz family does have a lot of Texas pride, so it makes sense. And Henry’s good luck charm seems to come in handy, since the election in the movie comes down to the votes in Texas, where Alex’s continued efforts throughout the film to focus campaign efforts on Texas voters ends up paying off and winning his mother the election. So there you have it! Maybe Henry is Alex’s yellow rose?