Royalty and perfume have a very long history, dating back thousands of years. But why is this link so strong?
The birth of perfume
Perfume has been around for thousands of years: traces that date back to antiquity have been found. Originally, it had a mystical role and was seen as being a link to the gods “through smoke” or “per fumum” in Latin (the root of the word we use today). It was only much later that people began to wear perfume themselves! The process and the ingredients used to produce it made it a rare and very expensive product. It was unthinkable for commoners to be able to afford perfume. In ancient times, only the wealthiest members of society could enjoy the delicious scent of perfume.
Over time, the process has evolved but perfume was the ultimate luxury product for many centuries. Although the wealthy and the aristocratic could afford to buy a few bottles, perfume was most commonly worn by royalty. Some very rare perfumes that came from distant lands were offered to kings and queens as diplomatic gifts. These gifts were coveted by royal families around the world. It really was a different time!
Perfume and royalty: a genuine love story
Kings and queens alike soon developed a passion for perfume. At a time when bathing was not commonplace, perfume was used to hide body odor. Nice! Over the years, monarchs used and abused perfume to ensure a pleasant smell at all times. This technique to mask their real smell was also adopted by aristocratic families, using perfumes that weren’t of such high quality or that were made with more common ingredients.
Let’s start with the Queen of Hungary: in the 12th century, she’s said to have received distilled rosemary water as a gift. Not impressed? It was said to be a very effective remedy against diseases, a beauty potion and a veritable fountain of youth.
The Queen herself is said to have written that after using the distilled water for a year, she looked like a young woman again, despite being 72 years old at the time. Thanks to her new-found health and beauty, the King of Poland asked for her hand in marriage but she refused. Take that!
In Catherine de Medici’s time, the tanners of Grasse had the brilliant idea of giving the Queen a pair of perfumed gloves. This gift was an incredible invention at the time! Given that gloves used to have a terrible smell, they decided to use local scents including lavender, mimosa, orange blossom and rose to cover up the odor of the tanned leather.
The Queen loved the idea and inspired a trend for perfumed gloves at the French court!
One of the most famous queens, Marie-Antoinette, was no exception to the rule: she loved perfume. Her favorite scent? Lavender, which she used to spray on her hair.
It was the delicious smell of lavender that gave her away when she fled; she was brought back to Paris to be guillotined. Oh dear…
If you want to find out more about the history of perfumery, Elisabeth de Feydeau’s books are packed with plenty of juicy stories and mouth-watering scents!
Modern royalty, global celebrities and perfume: an enduring love affair
Although it’s classified as a luxury product, perfume is much more affordable and accessible today. Some perfumers create fragrances in honor of kings, queens, princes, princesses and even dukes. Blenheim Bouquet, for example, was created in honor of the Duke of Marlborough in 1902. Quite a privilege, don’t you think?
These days, it tends to be celebrities and models in the limelight, rather than monarchs: they’re the ones who set trends and attract attention!
Many celebrities have created their own perfumes or perfume brands. Rihanna and her Fenty perfume have created a real buzz, Kim Kardashian has an eponymous scent, Jay-Z has created his Gold perfume and even Bruce Willis advertises his Lovingly fragrance.
Perfume remains synonymous with elegance, wealth and fame, but that’s not all. Today, perfume is worn on the skin. It gives the wearer an opportunity to express their creativity with total freedom by wearing a perfume that reflects who they are.
Although kings and queens used to wear perfume for their own pleasure, today’s stars have their own perfume lines so that these scents can be worn by as many people as possible.
Find out everything there is to know about the history of perfume: the role of perfume in ancient Egypt, in the Middle Ages, in the Renaissance and learn about modern perfumes.