Wednesday, September 17, 2008

In The Wake Of The Queen

In The Wake Of The Queen: Perfume Inspired by Marie Antoinette

When Elizabeth Feydeau, the author of A Scented Palace: The Secret History of Marie Antoinette’s s Perfumer, asked the perfumer, Francis Kurdjian to create a fragrance similar to Marie Antoinette’s, he said that it would be ‘impossible’ and ‘too expensive.’ He thought this because the perfume would have to be created with natural ingredients.

He became fascinated by the enigmatic Queen who loved luxury, however, and couldn’t resist the challenge. Feydeau knew that it would be popular amongst collectors and women who want to wear a fragrance that Marie Antoinette could have worn.

Kurdjian chose the time in Marie Antoinette’s life when she was a young mother and pictured her at the Triannon in her flowing muslin dresses, care-free and escaping from the restrictions of court life. He based the perfume on her favourite flowers – roses, irises, orange blossom and tuberoses. Marie-Antoinette once requested her perfumer, Fargeon, to create a perfume that would ‘capture Triannon’ for her (Mimi Frou Perhaps Kurdjian had a similar idea.

It took eighteen months of research, blending and poring over an encyclopaedia created by Fargeon, Marie-Antoinette’s perfumer, before he felt that it was correct. Kurdjian didn’t know if it was an exact reproduction of Marie-Antoinette’s perfume, but believed that it was a fragrance that she could have worn. She would not have worn just one scent, however, but many different ones because of the transient nature of the natural materials in them.

He did use all natural ingredients and the very best oils and essences to make an ‘intensely floral’ perfume. Kurdjian even used rhizomes from Tuscan irises which had been cured for five years as they were in the Queen’s day.

Perfume was stronger in Marie-Antoinette’s time and the perfumer made allowances for this. She wore fragrance mostly to mask the unpleasant smells of the court and the dreadful odour of the open sewers nearby. Although it was expensive, it wasn’t the unnecessary luxury that it is today, but regarded as a necessity by the aristocracy.

The fragrance is called La Sillage de La Reine, which means ‘In the Wake of the Queen’. has been advertised by the Chateau de Versailles as: “...a perfume with a sillage, elegant and light like the breeze blowing on a light dress. The queen's olfactory preferences have been assembled like a bouquet of confidences.”

25 ml of the fragrance costs $900.00. However, the prestige edition vials in Baccarat crystal cost over $11,000.00 each! Some have been sold to collectors and the wealthy, such as a sheik of Oman. In a nice touch, the Chateau gave Sofia Coppola, the creator of the beautiful movie, some vials.

NB: I have also published this article at and at Constant-Content.)

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