Bathing is an essential part of our lives. Unquestionably, right? Well, for the French King, Louis XIV, the act of taking a shower was not only rare but terrifying. The french aristocracy shared this concern in the 17th century, as it was believed that water brought sickness (so the less you bathed, the less vulnerable you were). Word on the street says the King himself only showered twice during his lifetime. Versailles, on the other hand, was very fragrant. To know more about this, keep reading The Perfumed Court.
The creation of Versailles goes recorded in history as one of the most expensive in terms of contemporary money, costing over 300 billion pounds. Despite this, the architects were forced to cut costs, which is why the palace of the then-reigning ‘Sun King’ is famous for its occupants, costly décor, and draughts so powerful that people had to sleep wearing ten layers of clothes.
However, the main claim to fame of 14th century Versailles was its foul odours that were hard to conceal. Is this simply a random assumption about what was going on back then?
At that time, hot water was seen as a substance that aided in the spread of numerous ailments. There was a notion that hot water opened up pores through which any illness, even the plague, might enter.
Most of the time, King Louis XIV took portable baths. In terms of the monarch’s overall hygiene, he was cleaned down with an alcohol-soaked towel every morning, and he changed his bottom layer of garments multiple times a day. However, because King Louis’ subjects at Versailles did not have their own baths, their personal hygiene consisted of so-called “dry washing”. They cleaned themselves with a rag, which was typically dry but occasionally drenched in something unpleasant. Nonetheless, they used to change their undergarments and shirts regularly — the cleanliness displayed as indicated by white cuffs that were flaunted.
It was difficult to eradicate all of these odours, which is why courtiers wore so much perfume. Perfumes often contained strong smells of animal origin, such as ambergris or musk. The court pharmacists would make sachets, which were not only placed in the linen and garment chests but were also sewed into the armpits or thighs of the outfits.
King Louis XIV used perfume liberally when he was younger, but he became unable to tolerate intense aromas as he grew older. That’s why, before the King entered a room, his staff would open all the windows to let all the fragrant odours leave.
To sweeten the air, containers of flower petals were placed throughout the Palace. Perfume was sprayed on the furniture. Even the fountain and guests were sprinkled with perfume upon entering the Palace, most likely as a protective measure during a time when cleanliness was limited. In fact, the air in the French court’s gilded salons was so fragrant that the court was dubbed “The Perfumed Court”.
The glover-perfumers rose to even greater prominence and influence. Parliament gave them additional patents in gratitude. Vast sums were spent on fragrances by the aristocracy: In Choisy, where Madame de Pompadour became famous for elevating exquisite living to new heights, perfume was used on a massive scale, becoming the dominant item in the household budget.
Today, we can only hear stories of how a French King invented perfume. Today is also the day that we can go a little further to understand how those fragrances were created:
La Collection Royale, inspired by the great Louis XIV, is a tribute to the scent aficionado king who thought that luxury was necessary for the grandeur of his reign. This collection aspires to honour this astute mixture of French heritage with a dash of modernism. Each of the six perfumes is elevated as a one-of-a-kind piece of art, designed by some of the industry’s most known contemporary noses.
Smoked Wood is dark and strong, beginning with Mandarin notes and progressing to a center of Cypress, Pepper, Thyme, Nutmeg, and a lush green harmony of Galbanum. The woody scent fades into an enticing trail of smoking notes such as olibanum, sandalwood, smoked woods, leather, and moss.
Citrus Oud takes you on a delicate trip from a bright zesty top to a warm enveloping base, merging notes of sparkling Petitgrain with Grapefruit, Orange, and Lemon.
A spice accord of Coriander, Cardamom, Nutmeg, and Baies Rose is balanced by Neroli and Lavender, while the base is complemented by exquisite Musk, Vanilla, Cedwarwood, Warm Amber, and opulent Oud.
Midnight Amber is a rich and dazzling homage to the fascinating and complicated art of smell.
The sumptuous Amber note, combined with Warm Resins and Bois de Rose, opens the smell, revealing a Geranium and Patchouli core, softened by delicate base notes of Vanilla and Orange.
Rich Mandarin & Pepper is an Oriental scent with a strong Leather accord. The regal invitation is given here by top notes of Grapefruit, Bergamot, Elemi, and Mandarin, touched with Pink Pepper.
The heart reveals a blend of Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Clove, and Cardamom, entwined with delicate Leather and Tobacco accords, and at the base, undertones of sweet Vanilla, Amber, and Precious Woods.
Rouge is a vibrant, fresh, and seductive fragrance that begins with Bergamot, Lime, and Tagete.
The woody, aromatic scent has an appealing base of Amber, Ambergris, Cedarwood, Moss, Musk, Patchouli, and a Powdery Musk, with heart notes of Fir Balsam, Jasmine, rich Oud, and Saffron adding a decadant floral touch.
The vivid Honey Tobacco is the concluding scent of La Collection Royale.
This woody scent begins with lively citrus accords of Lemon, Bergamot, Mandarin, and Thyme before settling into a spicy middle of Clove, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, and Ginger, accented by Saffron and Pepper.
Precious Woods, including Patchouli, Sandalwood, Vetiver, and Cedar, are combined with Tonka, Tobacco, and Honey in the base for a very nourishing smell that continues to surprise you.
Each sent is available in a luxurious 100ml bottle and compact 20ml atomizer, nestled in a heavyweight hinged wooden box. All items can be refilled in stores equipped with the 1667 Fountains, or ordered here.
If you enjoyed reading The Perfumed Court, then why not read Shine In and Out.