Tulips may be run-of-the-mill border bulbs to us, but to people living in Holland in the 17th century they were the food of obsession, blackmail… and riches.
Recent film Tulip Fever (starring Alicia Vikander and Judi Dench, and based on the novel of the same name) is set against the backdrop of the Dutch tulip craze, during which rare tulip bulbs sold for unbelievable prices, in turn creating the first economic bubble in financial history.
‘The Viceroy’ tulip could sell for 3,000-4,200 guilders – way out of reach of the average skilled worker, who earned just 300 guilders a year. And someone once offered a house in exchange for the red and white striped ‘Semper Augustus’ (above right). This pricy bloom is no longer available, but ‘Carnaval de Nice’ is similar – and, thankfully, there is no need to sell your house to buy it!