The orange lily conjures a powerful image: bright, radiant and resplendent, it serves as a striking antithesis to the shrinking violet. In the late 17th century, the flower occupied a sizeable chunk of popular imagination, borne out of the palace intrigue that accompanied the newly anointed King William III in 1689. To celebrate Dutch king’s accession to the English throne, London was awash with orange, but the flower took on a decidedly English twist in 1701. As a mark of loyalty to the King and to their Protestant faith, the 35th (Royal Sussex) Regiment of Foot were given permission by the King to bear orange facings on their uniform. Known as ‘The Orange Lilies, the Royal Sussex Regiment became one of the most highly regarded and respected infantry regiments in the country, fighting in the Napoleonic Wars, American Revolutionary War and the Indian Rebellion of 1857 to name a few.
Today, there is no longer a Royal Sussex Regiment to bear the Orange Lily on its facings but there is one author, Sophie Cloud, seeking to revive the flower in a different format. Cloud’s debut novel, Orange Lilies of Dallington Place, is a story set at the height of the Great War in 1916. Set against this backdrop, Betram Wright, a soldier, is called to arms on the Western Front, which places an immediate strain on the relationship with his new fiancé, Kathryn Beaumont. Pulled away from the bucolic Dallington Manor House to the front lines of France, Betram must contend with a slew of malignant forces on the battlefield and in his own mind. During this anguishing interim of separation, Kathryn too must learn to re-adjust to life without Betram and build an independent life of her own.
Speaking at her book’s launch at the Oswald Stoll Foundation on the Fulham Road, Cloud discussed her inspiration for the story: “I was very interested in the ‘Orange Lilies Regiment’, which was the Prince of Orange Regiment of 1701 and I decided to bring it forward to the First World War.
I’ve always been very interested in military history and I have met some fascinating people along the way like here at the Oswald Stoll. I always had the picture of a First World War love story in my head when I wrote the book”.
Orange Lilies of Dallington Place is available at all major bookstores and online. The Launch Party took place in conjunction with ‘Walking With The Wounded’ and donations can still be made at https://walkingwiththewounded.org.uk/Home/Donate