Marie Antoinette believed in a variation of the American Express slogan: “Don’t leave home without it.” That’s how she lost her head, because when the French revolutionaries stopped her escaping carriage, her perfume gave her away.
That fact and many others about the history of perfume were shared by Sara Colton in a recent lecture at Carolina Meadows. Although now living in Paris, Ms. Colton is a native North Carolinian and UNC-Chapel Hill graduate. Perfumes are her prime journalistic subject.
We have monastic and palace herb gardens, as well as the early Egyptians and Muslims to thank for the fragrances of today. Herbal rosemary was taken orally(with alcohol) for presumed health benefits. Royalty found that a touch of rosemary under the chin, behind the ears, or on riding gloves helped disguise the lack of Renaissance bathing.
Eau (water) de Cologne with citrus extract mixed in was developed by an Italian chemist living in Cologne. Napoleon’s troops brought it for their relations. Napoleon himself not only wore it, he drank it! On our side of the ocean, George Washington had his own favorite cologne and gave a case of it to Lafayette during a post-Revolutionary War visit. These were just some of the interesting “dabs” of information shared by Ms. Colton. As a bonus for the residents who attended the program, the speaker distributed tabs of rosemary, eau de cologne, and other scents, all of which made for a pleasant olfactory experience.
By CM resident Jim Scatliff