By Marioara de la Tara, in-house perfumer
One of my muses is Queen Maria of Romania, the granddaughter of Queen Victoria of England, and Nicolai the 2-nd, the Russian Tar. She was regarded as the most beautiful and most elegant princess of her time.
In the formative years of my youth, her memoir, her writings and her fashion style were a guideline and inspiration. It is Her Majesty who instilled in me the love and respect for the folklore and the simple folk of the countryside. It is because of her that I adopted the national folk costume as my “uniform”, outraging (or inspiring) my generation, setting a trend of sustainable fashion in the early ‘90, when the rush was to acquire the famous global brands newly entered on our fresh out of communism market. I did not see it that way then, I just saw it as eccentric and my only possibility to dress “like a queen”, considering my limited wardrobe and material possibilities.
Coming back to the art that occupies my time and the perfume of the queen, i again gathered my inspiration from her writings…
Starting with her childhood memories “of humid, dried leaves”, “smoke”, “vegetable gardens”, “rotten potatoes”, “old hessian bags”, “the sweet violet”, “the laurel”, “the huge cedar in front of the house”, the lake belonging to the residence in England, the fruits gathered from the orchards were she was visiting with her pony Isabelle, and right to the smell of basil and orange flower from her mother’s boudoir, I laid the base of her perfume same as the most distant memories that sit always furthest, at the back of our minds.
In her lengthy walks, Her Majesty always paid attention to nature, the caprifolium fences with the fragrant honeysuckle flowers, “ the grand magnolia with smell like lemon”, “passiflora”, “jasmine”, “the primulas coming out of the dead leaves”, or the “rosa gallica, pink and fresh” associated with the image of a fairy.
Reaching to this point in my reading, I already decided that my queen was the absolute queen of flowers, and the name of her perfume should comprise, well, all flowers…
She was fascinated by her mother’s boudoir, with the perfume flacons, soaps, crèmes, rose water, the ricin pastilles, or the iris powder sachets from Florence, the same place from where we are getting today our orris butter used in this and other of our perfumes.
While still a youth in England, the Queen fells in love with the linden flower, a smell that she recalls while visiting Iasi, a city in north-east Romania. The “black salsify from Osborne”, or the smell ”of the white beer soup, sweet and with raisins”, the Baumkuchen-“ the brown cake covered in sugar”, the smell of the lilies, for which the queen made almost an obsession, or that of the roses full of dew that she planted in all her gardens. She remembers the smell of the English fog, her father’s tobacco, and a heavy Russian perfume, which all are found in the perfume that seems a bit heavy, having in mind the abundance of memories from the queen’s life, which it tries to represent.
I tried to simplify the picture as much as I could, using merely 35 different materials, remaining however faithful to the style of the era when the queen lived: that of floral bouquet.
So here it was, the name of the perfume was to be “Florae”- flowers, all flowers, all white flowers to be more specific.
I kept elements of the wet England nature, but also the lush Romanian earth in spring, represented with oakmoss, vetiver, sandalwood, and hyrax, which is an African ingredient that so well pictures fields of green from spring to autumn and of freshly mowed grass…
And because the queen loved mostly the perfume of lady Emma Osborne with the lemony scent, and while in her time in Malta she was surrounded by jasmines, geraniums, white chrysanthemums, anemones, bougainvillea and citrus trees, a world which she called “of dream”, I added the petitgrain with its green tint, the neroli, the zest of lemon and mandarins, over the geranium and Egyptian and Sambac jasmines…
She loved the English opera and the theaters where “you could smell the bouquets of red, velvety and very opened roses” for which I added the noble damascena and centifolia roses.
But see, enumerating all the flowers scattered through the queens’ memory, would take so much more than just this online post reading…
To keep it shorter, I want to mention the scent of the churches with the frankincense and narcissus used at ceremonies, “the carnations, violets, basil and mock orane flowers” given to the Queen by a monk from the Cernica monastery, or the jams and apples from the nuns of the Pasarea monastery where it smelled like smoke. I did not forget the smell of spring and its flowers, the tulips and the hyacinth, the acacia or the fruit trees in flower, with the pepper and violets from Malta planted by her mother, Her Imperial Highness the Dutches of Edinburgh.
“La princesse lointaine” as the Queen was often called in her youth for the reason that she lived in the far and wild Romania, she was renowned for her beauty and elegance. She was always surrounded by flowers in her quarters and in her gardens, mostly created by her at the Cotroceni Palace, Peles Castle, at the Balcici summer residence, or everywhere she lived even if for just a little while.
She earned the name of “the Queen of Gardens” and for me she will always be “The Queen of Flowers”.
Florae is presented as a parfum extract, the most concentrated form of liquid perfume.
“After the war, the passion for gardening came towards me with a power I have never known before. Flowers everywhere, in gardens, in houses, in hospitals, in every single corner of the street, flowers, flowers as a sign of hope and faith. And after this, I created gardens everywhere I went, colorful gardens, memory gardens, for happiness and for beauty”
– from the autobiography “The Story of My Life” written by Her Majesty Queen Maria of Romania
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