A 1920s Love Affair Captured in Fragrance
The story behind Atkinsons’ Oud Save the Queen
Imagine, please, London, the Roaring Twenties, the glittering facade of Atkinsons, and, at its legendary flagship store, the dashing Crown Prince Mohammed Ali Ibrahim, renowned boxer, sports-car driver and extravagant dandy. At his side is his girlfriend, Hollywood movie star Mabel Normand, whom, alas, the Prince’s uncle, King Fuad I of Egypt, has forbidden him to marry.
The dashing emir is carrying, hidden inside a delicately engraved wooden box in his vest pocket, the key ingredient for the perfumes he wishes the illustrious house to compose for himself and his paramour: it is oud, the precious resin of agarwood, and the crown jewel of royal Oriental perfumery. He presents the box to James Atkinson, official performer to the English Royal Court, a man bold enough to approach his eminent personage. The house perfumers gather around as the gilded lid is slowly lifted, revealing the fragrant resin nestled inside. “Oud,” they whisper, enraptured. “The liquid gold of the Orient.”
The Crown Prince was determined to have a pair of fragrances blended for he and his paramour. He insisted on incorporating distinctively English accords of Central London (to remind the Prince what a terrifically rip-roaring time he had there), earl grey tea (his beloved’s favourite) and, for the Prince’s own scent, leather, (to conjure the smell of boxing gloves and his glories in the ring). The result was to be Atkinsons Oud Save The Queen and Oud Save The King, the two global bestselling scents to this day.
Ibrahim was enamoured with the Hollywood star. Mabel Normand was an American silent-film actress, screenwriter, director and producer who was so popular in the early 1920s that she owned her own movie studio and production company. She appeared alongside Charlie Chaplin in twelve films and Rosco “Fatty” Arbuckle in 17 movies. A artist’s model early in her career, Normand had a striking beauty the translated to screen in her memorable performances. There is a star in her honour to this day on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Her 1914 film “Mabel’s Blunder” was added to the National Film Registry in December 2009. It is said she was the inspiration behind the character of Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard. And her name was mentioned in the second season of Downton Abbey.
The ensuing cosmopolitan bouquets are a richly fragrant entente between the Orient and bonny old England. Oud Save The Queen opens with an Earl Grey tea note and fresh bergamot citrus that blends beautifully with white petals of jasmine and orange blossom. Clove, warm oud and guaiac wood round out the composition. It’s a scent that reflects a forbidden love.
Oud Save the King, a layered Oriental fragrance for him, again starts with an Earl Grey tea note and bergamot. Smooth suede and a powdery orris is joined by rich agarwood (oud) and sandalwood. It’s a dandy composition of the Middle East and British posh, a remarkable fragrance.
Mabel Normand sadly passed away at the age of 37 from tuberculosis. But her legendary love affair with a Crown Prince has been captured forever in a pair of exquisite fragrances thanks to James Atkinson.
Atkinsons is available exclusively in Canada at Holt Renfrew.
Frankie PinnixMarch 20, 2021 at 10:59 am
What a love story, and so much passion! I’ve never read of any other fragrance created from a love story this romantic! I wish I could buy some!
Annette P.March 19, 2021 at 10:10 pm
Amazing! I am just nearing the end of a biography of Mabel Normand.
Jibralta MerrillMarch 19, 2021 at 5:14 pm
I’m sure Princess Diana was aware of this story, after her divorce from Charles, when she fell madly in love with a London-based heart surgeon, who was Muslim and from a Pakistani family that did not approve of their son’s marriage to Diana. No, it wasn’t Dodi Fayed (a fun boyfriend) it was the brilliant, shy Pakistani heart surgeon that Diana was deeply in love with. He ended their love affair because he didn’t want a public life. Thanks for sharing the details. What a tragedy that Mabel and Diana both died at 37 and 36, respectively.
I wish these scents were sold in the USA.
Adele WrightMarch 19, 2021 at 2:36 pm
So interesting! I love this brand!
LInda LMarch 16, 2021 at 3:32 pm
A love story worthy of 2 exquisite fragrances!
Angela CitrignoMarch 16, 2021 at 2:30 pm
To love that much and then want two fragrances created. Hopefully one day I’ll be able to get to smell either one of these amazing fragrances. @959angela. Love reading stories like this.
UrmiMarch 16, 2021 at 11:40 am
Naella MMarch 16, 2021 at 4:36 am
How interesting!!! Nice to read a story behind a fragrance!
Brenda ElkinsMarch 15, 2021 at 12:41 pm
I am so intrigued by this fascinating story behind my new favourite fragrance Oud Save the King. Now I must seek out Oud Save the Queen. There really should be a movie made about the love story of Mabel Normand and Crown Prince Mohammad Ali Ibrahim. Imagine the exciting back drop of London in the Roaring Twenties, the beauty and magic of a famous movie star and the opulence and “Derring do” of the dashing, exotic crown prince! The theatre should be scented with the Atkinsons’ fragrances for added effect.
Roberta P MacQuarrieMarch 15, 2021 at 11:53 am
Such a fascinating story! I love these! Yes, they are what legends are made of! I am determined to inhale all these Atkinson scents at the fragrance counter when I eventually venture down to Vancouver! Spring is coming and I am hopeful!
September DeeMarch 15, 2021 at 9:11 am