Napoleon Bonaparte’s Fragrance Obsession
When it comes to famous faces in history who have truly influenced fragrance, Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte I is not likely a name that comes to mind first. But the famous general and conquerer has played a hugely influential role in how scents are produced and used.
Bonaparte, hero of the French Revolution and twice emperor of France is said to have gone through 50 bottles of fragrance per month. The Saint Helena Eau de Cologne, blended by his faithful servant, Mameluke Ali, the Second Valet-de-Chambre, was a light citrus-aromatic cologne that featured rosemary predominantly – a nod to Napoleon’s childhood in Corsica where rosemary flourished in the wild growing among the cliffs. He loved the cooling qualities of the scent.
Napoleon’s cologne was made solely of natural essences of fruit and aromatic plants. Emperor Napoleon I’s Saint Helena Eau de Cologne has been reconstructed using the original recipe by Jean Kerleo and kept secure at the Versailles Osmotheque which guarantees its authenticity.
A quarterly bill in 1806 shows Chardin, a fragrance house, supplied 162 bottles of eau de Cologne costing 423 francs, an outrageous price at the time. Even in exile, Bonaparte insisted on a supply of eau de cologne.
The military genius was meticulous with his personal hygiene. He even had a long narrow flask produced that slid into his riding boots allowing him to travel with his beloved cologne. He was a great promoter of colognes, which first went into production in 1792. He’d bath in it, pour it over his head and even brush it over his body vigorously. His followers and generals noticed this practice and soon were buying colognes in large numbers.
We have Napoleon Bonaparte I to thank for helping to promote the art of perfumery and the practice of men wearing fragrance. His influence continues to this day.