Perfumery History 2

Hungary Water

Queen Elizabeth of Hungary played a crucial role in making perfume popular in Europe at a time when the focus of the common man was not on grooming. What later became famously known as the Hungary Water was in fact a composition under her instruction, In 1370 Queen Elizabeth ordered that scented oils be blended in an alcohol solution which later on became famous across Europe as Hungary Water.

Perfume to France

In Renaissance Italy the art of making perfumes grew among the elite and Catherine de Medici had her own perfumer, Rene le Florentin. Due to the landscape of the time and prestige by material association, everyone kept their perfumers and formulas close to their chest. It has been said the Rene le Florentin’s formulas were so closely guarded that a secret passageway connected Catherine’s Villas with Rene’s labs.

The migration of perfumery continued across Europe with movement of the related elite. For example when Catherine de Medici married the future king of France, Henry II, and moved to France, she took her perfumes with her. The introduction of composed perfumery to France at such a influential and powerful sphere of society began the popularization of fragrance in France.

France Perfumery

As is the case when the influential and powerful want something they generally will get it done for themselves and others may or may not benefit from it. Here is the classic case of such a thing benefiting perfumery in France. In the 14th century due to the desire of the royalty to have their own fragrances, flowers started to be grown in the south of France solely for use in perfumes, as a result the region continues to be a global focal point for flowers for use in perfumery.


For the next 300 years perfumes were still a luxury confined to royalty. At this time in Europe the prevailing idea was that baths were dangerous to the health. According to one 16th-century medical treaty “Water baths warm the body, but weaken the organism and widen pores. This is why they can be dangerous and cause different diseases, even death.” In Europe and in America people would have themselves sewn into their undergarments for the winter. There was no need to change, as they were not about to have baths.

The Russians were more keen on bathing; indeed, the Russian ambassador to France commented that Louis XIV “stank like a wild animal.”

The lack of bathing meant that people generally stank, and Luois probably stank worse than most. The elite were keen on hiding their bad smells and the arrival of perfumery meant that masking bad smells was now possible. What better place then King Louis XIV’s palace, where the most powerful and wealthy were situated. When Louis was introduced to perfumes he was so taken it by it that he ordered his palace to be perfumed throughout.

Louis requested that flower petals be placed in every room in the palace. All the furniture, the fountain and visitors to the palace were sprayed with perfume.


The heyday of perfume in England occurred again as a prevention against bad smells. Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603) could not bear unpleasant smells and the attendees to her court walked in fear of smelling off to the Queen. The ladies in her court all tried to impress the Queen by concocting different scents every day of the week in order to win favor with the Que

The manufacture of perfume has changed drastically since the Industrial Revolution. However what remains are certain undertones that have over time formed the olfactory sensibility of Europe and from their the “West”. From those very early days, clean smells have been associated with citrus notes. As citrus essential oils were the first of the oils used in Europe to hide the bad smells of not bathing. This influence has lingered on until this day, where detergents to kitchen cleaning aids are all loaded with citrus notes. In recent years, new techniques in engineering have made the production of perfumes easier, thus bringing their price down and their application across every aspect of our lives, from our toilets and bathrooms to our offices, there are forms of fragrances at play. A long way from where it all began.

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