Last Friday we looked at some of the flowers for French perfumes; this week I am going to look at a famous French queen who not only had a lavish taste in clothes but also in perfumes! If you are a regular reader of Aromatherapy Notes, you will no doubt have read my aromatherapy book review of A Scented Palace by Elisabeth de Feydeau. I really enjoyed this book for its historical look at Queen Marie Antoinette’s personal perfumier, Jean-Louis Fargeon. Here is a summary about the fragrant aspect of the book, adapted from an article which I originally wrote for Suite 101.
The Perfumer of Marie Antoinette
Jean-Louis Fargeon (1748-1806) was a young Montpellier perfumer who arrived in Paris to learn more about the perfume trade and to become recognized in his profession; eventually he gained the attention of a young queen of France, Marie Antoinette (1755 – 1793) who requested him to make many scents, perfumes and beauty products for her.
Marie Antoinette reputedly had a life long love of flowers; flowers such as roses, violets, lilies and jonquils were added to her vast toiletry of perfumes.
Fragrant Creations and Perfumes for Marie Antoinette
In order to win the French queen’s favor, Jean-Louis Fargeon decided to make Marie Antoinette customized gloves scented with a very personal fragrance; it was the fashion at this time for ladies to wear perfumed gloves.
Fargeon combined the scents of blood-red carnations, hyacinths, violets and musk jonquils to create a natural fragrance for Marie Antoinette’s gloves; the gloves were made from kidskin and were treated with a mix of sweet almond oil, white wax and eau de rose. The gloves were laid on fresh roses and accented with nutmeg, to ensure the gloves would protect Marie Antoinette’s hands from her riding reins, in effect, a “natural restorative beauty treatment”.
Marie Antoinette was delighted with Jean-Louis Fargeon’s creation and ordered many more gloves to add to her collections. She then requested a perfume to add to her bath; Jean-Louis Fargeon prepared perfumed sachets which included ingredients of sweet almonds, pine nuts, linseed, lily bulbs and marsh mallow root and other aromatic plants. The success of the perfumed sachets led to many more requests from Marie Antoinette.
Perfumes Creations For Marie Antoinette
Jean-Louis Fargeon proceeded to create many perfumes for the French queen, including one known as the Parfum de Trianon; various perfume ingredients included violet, rose, jonquil and tuberose mixed with amber, opopanax or musk. Despite her reputation for extravagance, Marie Antoinette also used some simple toilet waters such as eau de fleur d’oranger.
The French queen purified the air in the royal apartments with vinegars seasoned with lavender and orange blossom; she had essences of both lavender and lemon added to her baths. Marie Antoinette had pomanders made with the fragrances of rose, carnation, jasmine, vanilla, frangipane and tuberose; she had beauty powders and creams created specifically for her to purify and whiten her complexion.
Pregnant Marie Antoinette and Perfumes
During Marie Antoinette’s pregnancies, Jean-Louis Fargeon constantly created perfumes of lemon, cinnamon, angelica, iris, rosewood, coriander and other aromatic plants to soothe and relax her; after the birth of her first child, Jean-Louis Fargeon was even requested to create a perfumed mix of oils to combat the queen’s sudden loss of hair.
The Final Journey of Marie Antoinette
Marie-Antoinette always took her favorite perfumes and perfumed sachets with her when she traveled; even when she was fleeing for her life, Marie Antoinette insisted on filling orders for perfume bottles, powder jars and unguents with her favorite perfumes for the journey; ultimately, the resulting delay of waiting for her favorite perfumes may have cost Marie Antoinette of France her life.
If you are interested in reading more about the fragrant concoctions of Marie Antoinette, I highly recommend the book listed as follows; in addition, if you have a love affair with French aromatics, watch out for blog posts, articles and more on my return from France in the Fall!
Feydeau, Elisabeth de, 2007 A Scented Palace: The Secret History of Marie Antoinette’s Perfumer UK: I.B. Taurus & Co. Ltd