Dr Robert Thornton was the brains behind one of the most impressive and quirky of all flower books: The Temple of Flora. Despite not being either an artist or a professional botanist, he was fascinated by the rapid development in botanical knowledge of his time and convinced that Britain should be in the worldwide vanguard of both the arts and the sciences. He was also, one suspects, appropriately enough for a Valentine’s day post, at least mildly in love with George III’s wife, Queen Charlotte. Writing at the time of the French Revolution and then Napoleon, Thornton was an ardent conservative, royalist and patriot, and intended The Temple of Flora to be a book in ‘which in Point of Magnificence is intended to exceed all other Works of a similar Nature on the Continent’. It was also designed to prove that Britain and its system of government were naturally the best in the world. Thornton, like Sir Joseph Banks, was a pioneer of botany with an imperial purpose.