Monday, August 8, 2011

Napoleon and Josephine's Favorite Perfumes

A portrait of Josephine

After his return from exile in Elba, Napoleon resumed his large orders of his favorite Eau de Cologne and for white Windsor soap. He seems to have preferred the scent of rosemary as it was in his cologne, and in his soap, which also contained otto of caraway, thyme, and clove – all plants which grew in the south of France or French-possessed countries.

He also bought almond cream, presumably for his wife Josephine. Josephine was born the daughter of a creole merchant from New Orleans, where, at the time, fragrant oils and creams of coconut and almond were used. In 1810, Napoleon and Josephine’s marriage was declared null and void and she lived in Malmaison, where she died four years later. During her lifetime, she was known to love the scent of violets and Napoleon had her grave covered with them, and even wore a locket of the flowers around his own neck.

When she was alive, Josephine followed the fashion of keeping scented flowers in her rooms. She loved hyacinths and mignonettes, and kept them in pots, to fill the room with fragrance. During one of his campaigns, Napoleon sent her some mignonette seeds from Egypt, and the plants were grown in the nursery gardens around Paris, to make posies for evening wear and for their scent to waft into the streets to cover the offensive odors of the time.

Source: Genders, Roy. Perfume Through the Ages: Scent – What It Is, How It Works, Its Effect on Man and Animals - Including the Science of Perfumery. New York, 1972. Pp. 134 - 135.

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