As you may know, the home of the Scottish Maritime Museum in Irvine is the former Engine Shop of the Scottish shipbuilding company, Alexander Stephen and Sons. These medals were awarded to the man responsible for the construction of this building at their Linthouse yard in Glasgow in 1871-2, Alexander Stephen (1832-1899).

The Linthouse Engine Shop. Following the closure of Stephen and Sons in 1982, the Engine Shop lay empty until it was salvaged by the Museum and moved to its present site.
Following the closure of Alexander Stephen and Sons in 1982, the Linthouse Engine Shop lay empty until it was salvaged by the Museum and moved to Irvine. This photograph shows the building just before it was dismantled. Image courtesy of the Scottish Maritime Museum.

In 1871, Stephen and Sons were commissioned to build three iron paddle steamers for the Brazilian Navigation Company; “Para”, “Ceara” and Bahia”. In July of that year, they were given two days notice that the Emperor of Brazil, Pedro II, was coming to visit the shipyard and wished to see the launch of the “Para”. This prompted a frantic attempt by the yard workers to get everything ready. Sadly, despite their efforts, the launch was unsuccessful and the “Para” got stuck halfway down the slipway. Nevertheless, the Emperor was pleased that he had been able to start the “Para” on her journey to the sea. Two years later, following the completion and delivery of the three paddle steamers, he conferred the title of ‘Knight Officer of the Order of the Rose’ on Alexander Stephen.

Alexander Stephen (1832-1839). Stephen was the third generation of the family to be involved in shipbuilding, the company having been founded in Aberdeen in 1850. Copyright Unknown. If you can provide any further information on the copyright of this image please contact the Museum.
Alexander Stephen (1832-1839). Stephen was the third generation of the family to be involved in shipbuilding, the company having been founded in Aberdeen in 1850. Copyright Unknown. If you can provide any further information on the copyright of this image please contact the Museum.

The Order was created in 1829 by Emperor Pedro I, Pedro II’s father, to celebrate his marriage to Amélie of Leuctenberg. It has been suggested the Order was founded due to him declaring she was “…as beautiful as a rose” when he first saw her. Another explanation is that roses were Amélie’s favourite flower.

The front and reverse of one of Alexander Stephen's 'Order of the Rose' Medals
The front and reverse of one of Alexander Stephen’s ‘Order of the Rose’ Medals.

The design of the medal reflects its romantic origins. The central medallion features the intertwined initials “P” and “A” for ‘Pedro’ and ‘Amélie’, and is surrounded by the phrase “Love and Fidelity” in Latin. On the reverse is the date of their engagement, 2nd August 1829. What a lovely gesture for his new bride!