Perfume: A Royal Redolence

Perfumes have been a part of royal culture for centuries. Kings and queens have used fragrances to convey their power and influence, as well as to express their personal taste. Today, many perfumes are associated with royalty, from the classic scents of royal courts to the modern-day perfumes inspired by royalty. In this article, The Reverie contributor and perfume historian, Dimitri Dimitriadis, explores some of the perfumes that have a royal connection or association.

Reaching back into antiquity, arguably no royal figure could be more highly revered than Cleopatra, Queen of the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt from 51 to 30BC. Cleopatra's relationship with scent has been meticulously documented in ancient scrolls and on temple walls, and archaeologists have since excavated her perfume manufactories at Mendes in the eastern Nile delta. There, residual fragments of Cleopatra's perfume named 'The Mendesian' have been discovered in amphoras and were analysed using a variety of advanced technologies. Said to be the "Chanel No.5 of its time", Cleopatra's famed recipe was said to have remained in circulation for 500 years and was even referenced in both Roman and Greek records. But somewhere, its detailed formula was lost to the sands of time. Today's research has identified quantities of date oil, myrrh, cinnamon and pine resin amongst other rare components traded across the Mediterranean and Asia Minor. To honour their Queen, the Mendesian was used to perfume Cleopatra's sails, so that all of Egypt would experience her distinct redolence as she travelled down the Nile.

Another historical figure - Catherine de Medici - is also well known for her connection with perfume. When Medici, a Italian noblewoman, set off to wed King Henry II of France she left Italy with her carefully selected entourage of dancers, artists, poets and her now-notorious perfumer, Rene de Florentin. In France, working from his own laboratory, Rene's nefarious creation of poisoned jewellery to do away with Medici's adversaries is widely recorded. In an effort to veil the smell of these poisons, Rene de Florentin produced perfumed gloves for the Queen, which swiftly became regarded by the French nobility as the absolute pinnacle of fashion. The resulting furore saw scented garments heavily in demand and worn by all of France's high-born aristocrats. Several hundred years later, in 1966 when Florence's Arno River overflowed and disastrously flooded the city, several records were retrieved from a flooded basement containing Renaissance formulas for perfumes worn by Catherine de Medici. These have since been recreated by the company 'I Profumi di Firenze' who are still in business today.

For hundreds of years, numerous perfume houses have had the high honour of scenting royal families. In the Middle East, it is Amouage that has perfumed kings and sultans; in England Crown Perfumery, Floris and Penhaligon's have all carried royal warrants, and in France, heritage house Guerlain has perfumed a Napoleonic Empress. Occasionally, royals request bespoke fragrances be made for state occasions, as was the case with Princess Grace of Monaco, whose wedding scent 'Fleurissimo' was commissioned in 1956 and supplied by Creed to compliment flowers in the bride's wedding bouquet. Fleurissimo is a celebratory marriage of enchanting Hollywood glamour and absolute royal refinement.

Grace de Monaco's 'Promenade Sur Le Rocher' and 'Danse Étoilée' each stand as an aria to femininity, while the newest offering, ‘Ombre Sereine’ is an ode to the glamour and seduction of Monaco after-dark. These essences stand as testaments to the fine tradition of perfumery in its most elegant form. They embody the supreme magnificence and enduring lambency of the woman herself: Princess Grace of Monaco.

Dimitri Dimitriadis is a perfumer, perfume writer, speaker, curator and historian based in Perth, Western Australia. He has designed and hosted perfume exhibitions and frequently holds speaking and educational engagements for luxury fragrance brands and independent perfumeries across Australia. When he is not burying his nose in a fragrance tome, you’ll find him trawling the antique markets on weekends; having a leisurely game of tennis; or adding to his vast 80’s heavy metal vinyl collection. Follow Dimitri on Instagram @eaudorangeverte and discover more of his writing here, here and on his blog The Fumery.