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Perfume enjoyed huge success during the seventeenth century. Perfumed gloves became popular in France and in 1656, the guild of glove and perfume-makers was established. Perfume came into its own when Louis XV came to the throne in the 18th century. His court was called “le cour parfumee”, “the perfumed court”. Madame de Pompadour ordered generous supplies of perfume, and King Louis demanded a different fragrance for his apartment everyday. The court of Louis XV was even named due to the scents which were applied daily not only to the skin but also to clothing, fans and furniture. Perfume substituted for soap and water. The use of perfume in France grew steadily.
After Napoleon came to power, exorbitant expenditures for perfume continued. Two quarts of violet cologne were delivered to him each week, and he is said to have used sixty bottles of double extract of jasmine every month. Josephine had stronger perfume preferences. She was partial to musk, and she used so much that sixty years after her death the scent still lingered in her boudoir.
Perfume reached its peak in England during the reigns of Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I. All public places were scented during Queen Elizabeth’s rule, since she could not tolerate bad smells. It was said that the sharpness of her nose was equal led only to the slyness of her tongue. Ladies of the day took great pride in creating delightful fragrances and they displayed their skill in mixing scents.
As with industry and the arts, perfume was to undergo profound change in the nineteenth century. Changing tastes and the development of modern chemistry laid the foundations of perfumery as we know it today. Alchemy gave way to chemistry and new fragrances were created. The French Revolution had in no way diminished the taste for perfume, there was even a fragrance called “Parfum a la Guillotine.” Under the post-revolutionary government, people once again dared to express a penchant for luxury goods, including perfume. A profusion of vanity boxes containing perfumes appeared in the 19th century.
In early America, the first scents were colognes and scented water. Florida water, an uncomplicated mixture of eau de cologne with a dash of oil of cloves, cassia, and lemongrass, was popular.