This little bottle of perfume has been made by following the original recipe for the scent worn by Queen Elizabeth I by Historic Royal Palaces and is on sale in their online gift shop.
The recipe is 400 years old and was discovered in a book at the Royal Horticultural Society’s library in London. The book is titled ‘The Mystery and Lure of Perfume’ by C J S Thompson. The recipe says:
”Take 8 grains of musk and put in rose-water 8 spoonfuls, 3 spoonfuls of Damask-water, and a quarter of an ounce of sugar. Boil for five hours and strain it”
This perfume is the closest we can get to knowing what the queen smelled of and it probably was very nice indeed.
Hieroglyphics in the Middle East show that Ancient Egyptians were making perfume 3,000 years before the birth of Christ but scent did not arrive in England until the sixteenth century.
Perfumes in Tudor and Elizabethan England were mainly used to cover up nasty smells. They made ‘pickled roses’ which we call ‘pot pourri’ today. It was made from flower petals and used to keep homes smelling fresh and disease free. Cardinal Wolsey was famous for always having a sweet smelling orange pomander to ward off disease as he spoke to common people in the streets of London. There were no flushing toilets and lots of unhygienic practices in Tudor England and I imagine it was all a bit smelly!
Tudors used perfume in pomanders which rich women hung around their girdles or in their rooms. They believed that disease could be caught by bad smells which they called miasma.
Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, Henry VIII’s chief adviser.
Left: Mary Queen of Scots’ pomander. Right: A pomander purse ( Both from her Majesty’s Royal Collection.)
Tudor doctors thought miasma was a poisonous mist which caused disease. They believed miasma was found near any filthy or rotten smell. They used perfumes and pomanders to cover up the miasma and to protect themselves from illness. Plague doctors wore masks filled with flowers to try protect themselves too.
I discovered this wonderful website with lots of history crafts. Here is the link to their page about making your own Tudor pomanders: http://timetravellerkids.co.uk/news/make-a-tudor-pomander/
Elizabeth I’s eau de toilette is sold in Historic Royal Palaces gift shops and online. Unfortunately this product can not be shipped overseas. Many reviewers on the gift shop website have discovered this after it a trip to London and been very disappointed not to be able to buy more from home by post. The online reviews are very good. I intend to put it on my birthday list. The scent is described as…
‘The unique delicate rose scent is captured in a bespoke glass bottle with Elizabeth I’s signature and the recipe on the front and comes with a purple velvet pouch. 50ml.’
Please note that the perfume bottle now has a plain, brushed silver round top and not as shown in the picture.
Delivery to UK customers only.