It may be somewhat telling that on 1st November 1755, one day prior to her birth, an earthquake, which today is estimated as having been somewhere in the range of magnitude 8.5 – 9, known as the Great Lisbon Earthquake struck Portugal causing massive devastation and sending shock-waves throughout Europe which were felt as far as Finland and North Africa.
Way to make an entrance, girl.
Marie Antoinette by Christine Comyn
Marie Antoinette is a character whose influence is widely felt throughout our popular culture. Her story is one that continuously intrigues us, inspiring books and films which study all aspects of her life and her reign as the last queen of France; however, I think it is fair to say that one of her most powerful legacies is that of Queen of Fashion.
My own interest with Marie Antoinette started after reading Caroline Weber’s Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution, which gives a fascinating account of how Marie Antoinette spoke via her sartorial choices, and how, along with her glam squad which consisted of her marchande de modes, Rose Bertin and her coiffeur, the legendary Léonard Autié, she would go on to become the first international style icon.
Rose Bertin. Photo courtesy of missedinhistory.com
Léonard Autié. Photo courtesy of thehairpin.com
Since then I built up quite a collection of books, biographies, and essays about Marie Antoinette, including Dumas’ five Marie Antoinette Romances. I have also read very much about the French Revolution itself and various aspects of this time in history including the Diamond Necklace Affair, arguably the precursor of the revolution itself, and the royal family’s clandestine escape attempt at Varennes. I’ve read memoirs as well – Madame Campan’s Private Life of Marie Antoinette, and I also managed to find an 1897 edition of Léonard Autié’s The Souvenirs of Léonard. I know many people argue that most memoirs of the time are apocryphal or are only written in hindsight decades later, but nonetheless I find them incredibly entertaining. This excerpt from Léonard’s Souvenirs where he writes about dressing Marie Antoinette’s hair after she has given birth to Madame Royale is too hilarious not to share:
“This daily task was not easy to fulfill: nothing is more difficult than to dress a person’s hair in bed, and I was obliged to lie down almost at full length by the Queen’s side. In this singular contact I felt the gentle warmth of Her Majesty’s body through her sheets; and I never experienced to the same degree how embarrassing it sometimes is to be, by force of circumstances, a man of no consequence.”
My collection of books on Marie Antoinette and the French Revolution. There are more stashed away in the loft as well!
Marie Antoinette’s love of perfume is well documented. Elisabeth de Feydeau’s A Scented Palace documents Marie Antoinette’s relationship with her perfumer, Jean-Louis Fargeon, and it is said that she was fleeing Varennes, Marie Antoinette was only recognised as royalty because of her Houbigant perfume which only royalty could afford.
So to celebrate the 259th anniversary of her birth on 2nd November I have compiled a list of all of the perfumes I could find which Marie Antoinette has inspired, and by next year which marks the 260th, I am hoping to have sampled and reviewed as many of the fragrances listed below I can get my hands on:
Geranium 30, Le Labo. Geranium 30 was created by Le Labo’s perfumeurs Fabrice Penot and Edouard Roschi together with florist Thierry Boutemy, who created the floral arrangement at Versailles for Sophia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette. Inspired by the Petit Trianon, it is described as “a precarious balance of flowers and spices, creating the permanent feeling of walking in a perfectly arranged mad and wild garden.” Unfortunately only 100 bottles were launched at Opening Ceremony earlier this year.
La Haie Fleurie du Hameau, L’Artisan Parfumeur (Jean-Claude Ellena). This white floral bouquet was inspired by the honeysuckle hedges in bloom at Le Petit Trianon, Marie Antoinette’s fantasy play garden at Versailles. A romantic tangling of jasmine, honeysuckle and narcissus. Launched in 1997; however, it seems that it is no longer available from L’Artisan’s web site, but it seems bottles can still be purchased at Barney’s in NYC.
Marie Antoinette, JoAnne Bassett. This perfume is one of her precious potions, a lush, spicy floriental with notes of Neroli, Tuberose, rare Bulgarian White Rose Otto, Vintage Jasmine Sambac, Frankincense Noir, Holy Basil, Labdanum, Champa, Lavender, Rhododendron, Ylang Ylang.
Hameau de la Reine, Historiae (Bertrand Duchaufour). Following the example of the Prince de Condé in Chantilly, Maire-Antoinette wants to have her own little village to enjoy the pleasures of the countryside with her children. Her aspiration for a rural paradise in somewhat a result of the Enlightenment. The Queen had her Hameau built in Versailles in 1783, going against the traditions of the old Royal Court. Notes include bergamot, blackcurrant bud, tomato leaf, fig leaf, rose, galbanum, peony, geranium, mock orange, ivy, vetiver, patchouli, white wood, musk, and honey.
Bouque du Trianon, Historiae (Bertrand Duchaufour). On August 15, 1774, King Louis XVI makes a wonderful gift to his wife Marie-Antoinette : « You love flowers, I have a bunch to offer you : the Petit Trianon. » At Trianon, Marie-Antoinette created a haven of intimacy that allowed her to escape the etiquette. She indulged her taste for country-style patterns and pastel colors. With its sensual floral and wooded scents, it expresses both the eclecticism and sophistication of Marie-Antoinette and subtlety evokes her personality. Notes include lemon, bergamot, Mandarin, galbanum, Mint, freesia, blackcurrant bush leaf, tuberose absolute, ylang ylang, beeswax absolute, rose, honeysuckle, vetiver, patchouli, amber, musk, sandalwood, cedarwood.
Cour des Senteurs, Guerlain. Queen Marie-Antoinette marked history with her exquisite taste and refinement. At Versailles, she loved to stroll through her garden of the Petit Trianon, surrounded by a symphony of beautiful flowers. Amongst them, jasmine was her favourite. This is why the Guerlain perfumer majestically showcased it in Cour des Senteurs – Versailles.
Princess Ettoinette, Etude House. Mini Marie Antoinettes will love this one! In Versailles Garden, one peony blossomed at the end of a 60cm long stem just once a year, and Princess Etoinette was fond of this precious flower for its especially elegant scent.
Eau de Trianon, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz Perfumes. Based on detailed notes for the fragrance, “Parfum du Trianon”, commissioned by Marie Antoinette. She asked her perfumer, Fargeon, to create a fragrance that would evoke the aroma of the gardens of her beloved palace, Petit Trianon and her ‘Hameau’ (Hamlet). He created for her a delicate and beguiling floral perfume that not only bespeaks the flowers, woods and fresh air of Trianon but is full of symbolism of her life at Versailles and role as Queen. It is a perfume that illustrates the light hearted grace and sparkling enchantment of high Rococo style.
Daupine, Goest Perfumes. Divinely innocent, incandescently pretty. Inspired by the redolent imageries of Sophia Coppola’s film ‘Marie Antoinette’, Dauphine is a clean, ideal, fresh skin scent, pink and cream and white all over. This scent has notes of pink, full blown rose; milky, fresh, sweet almond; and a reveille of innocent, airy musks. This scent is sweet, but not in a lurid, hard-candy-way; it’s sweet like fresh, cream-filled, rosewater-scented pastries. Innocent, but not immature; quiet, never cloying: this charming and refined scent is superlatively, incandescently, and, quite simply, very, very pretty. Notes include Muscs, Almond, Roses, Cream.
Café Cacao, En Voyage Perfumes. Marie Antoinette took a bit of ambergris in her hot chocolate, did you know? (We’re told that Louis XV was an aficionado as well.) And Empress Josephine liked her musk so much that she had her workmen embed it in her walls. Using the coveted royal fragrances of Josephine’s musk & Marie Antoinette’s amber-laden cocoa, we’ve created a perfumed version of the Parisienne café mocha. Café Cacao is a sensuous perfume with a surprisingly aphrodisiac effect. Set in a stunning yet subtle amber base that lends a much-appreciated wearability, the dark French roast café, steamy milk, and dark cacao are topped with sweet cream, sprinkles of vanilla powder, rose sugar, and cardamom. Notes include Vanilla Powder, Rose Sugar, Ground Cardamom, Bergamot Peel, Espresso Cafe, Steamed Milk, Salt, Dark Cacao, Rich Whipped Cream, Soft Amber, Himalayan Musk, New Zealand Beach-combed Ambergris.
Black Jade, Lubin. The original Black Jade, called ‘Jardin Secret’ was created in 1787 just for Queen Marie Antoinette by royal perfumer Jean-Louis Fargeon, to whom Pierre Francois Lubin was apprenticed. On the eve of her departure to the Conciergerie, the queen entrusted the Duchess de Tourzel with her last vial of perfume, which she had worn around her neck. The duchess survived the revolution and, in her memoirs, spoke of the shiny black vial as a talisman. Over the generations, the family came to call it “jade noir,” or black jade. Galbanum, bergamot and cardamom provide a fresh prelude to the rose and jasmine heart notes, enhanced by a hint of incense and cinnamon. The amber base, anchored in exotic woods, Indian sandalwood and patchouli, is arrayed in vanilla and Tonka bean.
Turquoise, Régime des Fleurs. A pastel nectar. The young dauphine Marie Antoinette on an exuberant springtime tour across the kaleidoscopic pastures of India wearing exotic garlands around her neck With morning rosebud dew, Indian wild grass, golden turmeric extrait, hedione, sacred champaca flower CO2, sterling benzoin water, jeweled fruit, cassie flower, and beeswax absolute.
MA Sillage de la Reine, Francis Kurkdjian. While doing research on Jean-Louis Fargeon, parfumeur to Marie-Antoinette, biographer Elisabeth de Fevreau unearthed notes on the queen’s personal perfume. Originally named ” Le Trianon,” the perfume once used by the queen combines various scents including rose, iris, jasmine, orange blossom and sandalwood. The scent which was renamed “M.A. Sillage de la Reine” was developed by French perfumer Francis Kurkdjian, who combined the ingredients after detailed research. He adhered strictly to the 18th-Century custom of combining “100% natural primary materials” and the scent is “intensely floral”. It should be no surprise to anyone that since its launch in 2006, MA Sillage de la Reine is no longer available from Versailles.
Ten bottles of MA Sillage de la Reine were made housed in Baccarat crystal which sold for €8,000, and a further 1,000 bottles in less illustrious packaging were made to sell at €350.
Rose Royale, Shiseido. Perhaps taking inspiration from the manga series, “The Rose of Versailles” which tells the romantic story of Lady Oscar (a character perhaps inspired by the Chevalier D’Eon), a girl who dresses as a boy and who becomes Marie Antoinette’s royal guard and assists in helping to cover-up Marie Antoinette’s meetings with her lover Count Axel von Fersen. Described as an aristocratic, luxurious and sophisticated fragrance, an indispensable attribute of the noble, self-confident and sensual ladies. Rose Royale is able to emphasize unique individuality, grace and timeless beauty. Notes include Bulgarian rose, Magnolia, Bergamot, Rosa centifolia, Ylang-ylang, Jasmine, Iris, Oakmoss, White cedar. Launched in 2006 however exclusive to Japan.
Rêve de la Reine, Arty-Fragrance Elisabeth de Feydeau. Like a “mille fleurs bouquet”, an olfactory chef d’œuvre of the 18th century, the Eau de parfum Rêve de la Reine transports us into a universe of modernised elegance. While she was writing her book A Scented palace: the secret history of Marie-Antoinette’s perfumer, she found in her archives the perfumer’s form and the orders the Queen made to him.
Oh Délice!, ID Parfums. The gustatory floral chypre composition is signed by perfumer Claire Chambert, who confesses to having a sweet tooth herself. Her inspiration rests on the biopic movie by Sofia Coppola about a young Marie-Antoinette set in a pastel-colored Château de Versailles laden with pastries and macarons. The eau de parfum opens on top notes of cherries and pink peppercorns followed by a heart of rose and star jasmine and finally resting on praline, tonka bean, creamy osmanthus and vanilla.
Notes Gourmandes, Réminiscence. Released in 2008, Réminiscence’s Notes Gourmandes collection featured four fragrances, Do Ré, Mi Fa, Sol La, and Si Do. The four eaux de parfum take their inspiration from gustatory notes, music and Marie Antoinette. The four fragrances, housed in charming pastel colored flacons with all of the feminine accouterments and allusions to the Marie Antoinette universe. Do Ré: Top notes of heliotrope & green fig Heart notes of almond, cedar wood & Javan patchouli Base notes of vanilla, Tonka bean, Siam benzoin & musk. Mi Fa: Top notes of marshmallow, bergamot, mandarin & neroli Heart notes of ozone, almond, lavender, rosemary, mint, petitgrain, jasmine, black pepper & sandalwood Base notes of vanilla & musk. Sol La: Unique, elegant, feminine & captivating Top notes of Italian lemon, Sicilian bergamot, orange from Florida, bitter orange, Chinese eucalyptus, French lavender, Siberian pine & Tunisian rosemary Heart notes of ylang ylang, petit-grain from Tunisia & pink pepper from Brazil Base notes of Madagascar vanilla, pear & patchouli from Indonesia. Si Do: Sweet, sensual, comforting & enchanting Top notes of orange from Florida, Italian lemon & bergamot Heart notes of iris from Florence, ambrette, carrot from France, Atlas cedar, cloves from Madagascar & ylang-ylang Base notes of pear, vanilla & musk. It seems that the Notes Gourmandes collection may have changed since its release in 2008. On the Réminiscence web site, the collection now contains three eaux de parfum, Héliotrope, Guimauve, and Dragée; however, the original collection seems to be available from a number of web sites. I found them on LavishChoice,co.uk.
Marie Antoinette Rose, Henry Jacques. A beautiful rose note on a background of myrrh, frankincense and amber. This perfume has been recreated through research in both museums and old books. Marie Antoinette’s perfumes were always composed of a flowery note on a background of myrrh, frankincense, and amber.
Marie Antoinette Violette, Henry Jacques. Features the same background composition as Marie Antoinette Rose. For the top note of violet, we have created a bouquet of flowers and leaves.
À la Rose, Francis Kurkdjian. The fragrance was inspired by Marie Antoinette’s love of roses, and the painting Marie-Antoinette à la Rose by Louise Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun. À la Rose is currently only available in Japan.
Marie, Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab. A blend of sinuous violet and elegant tea rose: the chosen scent of France’s Demigoddess of Debauch: Marie Antoinette.
Antoinette, Sweet Tea Apothecary. 15 year old Marie Antoinette was a bit surprised when she arrived at Versailles – instead of the grand imperial palace of the Sun King, Louis XIV, the royal halls were in disrepair and the French court at the time was a bit less than what she’d call hygienic. Feminine and beautiful, the young Dauphine was France’s biggest trendsetter with sky-high coiffures and daring gowns. She put her womanly touch on the palace, helping with extensive redecoration to bring Versailles back to its original glory. She spent many hours in the gardens of the Trianon and at her idyllic, pastoral Hameau de la Reine (a thirty minute or so walk from the palace). It is no surprise that she enjoyed the smell of fresh florals. La Reine Antoinette is inspired by the actual perfume worn by France’s most famous queen. Gentle notes of Rose, Bergamot, and Jasmine accented by fresh moss will make you feel as though you’re picking wildflowers in the gardens of Versailles.
Régime des Fleurs
Maison Francis Kurkdjian
Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
Sweet Tea Apothecary