Nothing reveals more about a woman than her choice of scent. Following an immense amount of detective work – four full days of research and numerous clandestine conversations – Stylist presents the favourite scents of five of the most revered British royals, past and present.
QUEEN ELIZABETH I, reigning queen from 1558 to 1603
Formidable, eccentric and never without a pile of pearls, Elizabeth I doused herself in perfume to mask the scent of sweat caused by her chronic panic attacks. Her chosen blend was musk, damaskwater, rose-water and sugar which had to be boiled for five hours and strained to create a perfume. The recipe was recently discovered in a book at London’s Royal Horticultural Society by garden designers Laurie Chetwood and Patrick Collins, who then spent a year growing the ingredients to recreate the scent. They released the unique, delicate scent as an eau de toilette in 2009, called Elizabeth I (£25), in a bottle bearing the Queen’s signature.
QUEEN VICTORIA, reigning queen from 1837 to 1901
The only other british Queen to have celebrated a Diamond Jubilee, Victoria quickly became a devotee of British perfume house Creed, founded in 1760, after being introduced to it by Empress Eugénie of France. Creed responded by presenting Victoria with Fleurs de Bulgarie in 1845, a heady scent which she wore throughout her illustrious reign. Youthful and classic, it’s made from the rarest Bulgarian roses with notes of musk, ambergris and bergamot, an updated version of which is still a top seller today (£149). In 1885, she granted Creed with the royal warrant – the letter from the palace to Henry Creed is still on show at the perfumery’s Conduit street store in London.
QUEEN ELIZABETH II, reigning queen from 1952 to present
Carnations are reported to be our Queen’s favourite flower so while Floris – the perfume house with the royal warrant – is unable to confirm her favourite scent in their selection, evidence points to White Rose (£69), a floral fragrance with spicy notes of carnation. It speaks of Elizabeth as soft and delicate, rather than the staunch character often perceived. In honour of her Jubilee, Floris has released the Royal Arms Diamond Edition (£99) with a regal bouquet of rose, jasmine and sweet violet – an updated version of the fragrance created to celebrate her birth in 1926. Six vintage crystal and diamond bottles have been made, on sale for the royal price of £15,000.
PRINCESS DIANA, Princess of wales from 1981 to 1996
Ever the devoted perfume aficionado, Diana loved 24 Faubourg by Hermès (£72) – a powerful white floral with top notes of peach – later in her life, as her former butler Paul Burrell noted in his memoirs. For her wedding day she chose Quelques Fleurs (£45), a floral creation of tuberose, jasmine and rose, launched in 1912 by classic Parisian perfume house, Houbigant. Diana famously spilt a little on her Emanuel wedding dress just before stepping out of the carriage. Seeing her embarrassment, her make-up artist Barbara Daly suggested she gather the fabric around the blot in her hands to walk up the aisle, a gesture watched by 750 million people.
DUCHESS CATHERINE duchess of cambridge from 2011 to present
Having taken on the mantle as the nation’s sweetheart, every dress she wears, every curl of her hair and, of course, her fragrance selection is meticulously scrutinised. In a surprise move, Kate eschewed long-standing royal perfumeries and chose White Gardenia Petals (£70), a floral bouquet of lily, jasmine and gardenia by nascent british brand Illuminum for her wedding, to complement her floral bouquet (which included lily of the valley). It’s the mark of a woman who knows her stuff; in contemporary style, each illuminum fragrance is made with only eight ingredients and the house has already won wide critical acclaim.