19 September, 2006

Tudor perfumery - how to smell nice without taking a bath

This post is prompted by a surprise link to this blog from the Perfume of Life discussion forum Baths were infrequent in Cardinal Wolsey's time, so how did tudor gentlefolk stay sweet?.

This from Proctor and Gamble's site: "At the royal court in Tudor days 'sweet breath' was prized as much as facial beauty, and perfumes were highly valued in a society where few people paid much attention to washing"

The International Federation of Aromatherapists has a comprehensive piece on the perfumes of Elizabeth I , from which the following extract gives a flavour......

"Houses and Royal Residences used masses of pleasant smelling herbs and flowers as 'strewing herbes' which would be scattered on the floor to produce a pleasant perfume to the air. England produced many aromatic plants in both gardens, fields and hedgerows. In the days when sanitation was virtually unknown, they also assisted in keeping hygienic standards. As every visitor to the the Tower of London will know, the Royal Appartments contained small grilles in the wall for 'bodily functions'.

Every castle or country house had its still room where perfumes and aromatics were made. These were vital places in the country as they produced herbals wines, mead and many other drinks. Housewives prided themselves on producing a whole range of 'household recipes' which included candied flowers, anti-moth powders and herbal bath additives of mint and lovage. Herb gardens proliferated and many can be seen today with their intricate herb knot gardens"

Here is a recipe from the same source:

Take 1 ounce of Benjamin ( Benzoin), 1 ounce of Storax and 1 ounce of Labdanum.Heat in a mortar till very hot, and beat all the gums to a perfect paste. In beating add 6 grains of Musk and 4 grains of Civet. When it is beaten to a fine paste, wash your hands with Rose Water and take a portion and roll between the hands till it is round. Make holes in the beads and string them while they are hot.

....certainly beats Blue Stratos.

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