What did Marie Antoinette smell like? It’s a mystery, since no whiff of her scent remains from the 18th Century, and it’s almost impossible to really describe what something smells like. But those of you who share my fascination with perfume will be intrigued. I recently read in the newspaper that Francis Kurkdjian has created a perfume that might have been hers, or similar to what she wore.
He began by researching Marie’s surroundings, likes, and dislikes. He scrutinized her bathing habits and her personality (she was the first to introduce bathrooms to Versailles). He learned that she favored the flowers of the Trianon garden on the Versailles estate. He scoured “musty boxes of centuries-old documents warehoused by the French government” to discover her favorite fragrances. He read the historical words of her personal perfumer — “fruity, heavy, flowery.” He used only natural ingredients — no synthetics.
What did he come up with? “A perfume fit for a queen, which he has named “Sillage de la Reine” – “In the Wake of the Queen.” It’s an amber essence of jasmine, orange blossom, tuberose, iris, cedar, and sandalwood.
I wonder if she really smelled anything like this perfume? Our modern noses might, or might not, like her scent. Historical times were smelly and odiferous, and the rich used potent potions to mask these odors. And, of course, every perfume smells different as it warms to the body heat of different skin.
If you would like to sample a whiff, the perfume sells in an 8.5 ounce, numbered Baccarat crystal flask for $10,500. A smaller crystal phial containing just under one ounce is available for $450. The money will be used to purchase Marie Antoinette’s ornate wooden traveling case from a private collector at a cost of $455,000.
Ah, the romance of fragrance!
And ah, to be a Queen, smelly or otherwise!