What a nose she had! That was the first thing that he thought. His last day in London found Charlie Finn staring at the stone image of Queen Elizabeth I in her tomb behind the altar at Westminster Abby. He bowed his head to honor her memory and marveled at how unlike Bette Davis she looked.
Queen Bette I of Hollywood
Though he found Westminster Abby to be magnificent in its soaring dark gothic splendor there was one place he wanted to see more than this, or any building in London. Inigo Jones Banqueting House of Whitehall, the only surviving building of the old Palace of Whitehall. Over his two week stay in the capital it had been his intention all along to see the magnificent building but somehow it eluded him. Today was his last chance. The structure in the center of London possessed a stunning and even tragic history. The most memorable story to come from this Palladian beauty was the fact that on the 30th of January 1649 King Charles I stepped from the central window of the house out onto a massive scaffold to be beheaded before the citizens of London. With the loss of his royal head England was plunged into a puritanical period where fashion floundered and fun fell from favor.
CHARLES I by Anthony van Dyck
Three heads are better than one.
After party pooper Cromwell fell came the glamour and glory of the Reformation in which Charles the II took the throne with panache. Fashion ruled the day. Theaters were reopened and most shocking of all, women were allowed on the stage! London became such a hot spot that it burned to the ground in 1666.
Upon leaving Westminster Abby, Charlie checked his watch and saw that he only had fifty minutes to find the Banquet House, see it and then meet his travel partner William for lunch. He knew he was close but not too sure of the exact location. He stepped up his pace as he headed down Parliament Street past Downing. When he reached where he thought it should be he was at a loss to recognize it. Standing in front of the Royal Horse Guard surrounded by picture snapping tourist he looked at his watch. 40 minutes left. A very tall, handsome British Solder a few paces to his right was speaking to some South American tourists. Charlie caught his eye and smiled.
The Royal Horse Guard
“Pardon me,” he said in his flat California accent. “But I am looking for The Banquet House of Whitehall and I can’t seem to find it.”
The guard with the cornflower blue eyes nodded and smiled. “You are nearly there. It is right behind you sir.”
Charlie looked across the street and there it stood, grand indeed but smaller than he had expected it to be.
The Banquet House Whitehall
“Well if it had been a snake it would have bit me.” He thanked the guard and planted his feet in the direction of his destination.
Charlie trotted across the street. There was a little black wrought iron gate with gold Tudor roses on the corner that led to the entrance. Above the door was a black bust of Charles I looking dashingly handsome and equally tragic. Charlie crossed the threshold of the gate and stopped dead in his tracks under the gaze of the King.
“The Banquet House is closed today for a private event.” The sign stood just beside the open door.
Charlie couldn’t believe what he was reading. His last day in London and no chance left to see what he had been looking forward to for months. As he stepped back onto the sidewalk he remembered all the wonderful things he had seen and resolved that they were indeed memorable. Not seeing the Banquet House would give him a good reason to plan another trip to London. But still he was disappointed.
He walked slowly down the street toward Parliament looking up at the windows of the building. When he came to the two center windows next to the lonely only tree on that stretch of the sidewalk he stopped. This was the spot where it happened. The world and time telescoped and he could see the King as he stepped out of the window onto the scaffold. Only a few steps from his end he looked so very tired. The crowd was suddenly silent as he placed his neck upon the block. The axe rose. Charlie closed his eyes against the horror of the fall of the axe.
A cold shock of wind from the Thames rocked him and he opened his eyes to look down at his feet. There under the edge of his shoe was a blood red paper carnation with a tin foil stem. The kind people used to wear on Memorial Day back home to remember those who had fallen in war. Charlie bent down to pick it up and in so doing understood that this was far better a memory than if he had seen the inside of the building with its magnificent ceiling and beautiful design. It was a sign from the King.
Charlie looked up at the windows again and nodded. “Rest in peace your Majesty.”
“Who are you talking to?” Charlie turned to see his friend William standing behind him.
“King Charles the first. Oh Willy you will never guess what just happened.”
“Well knowing you and your wild Irish imagination I can just about guess.”
I did not loose my head over “Clive Christian No.1 for Men”. This perfume, this house is legendary for having a reputation of being the most exclusive and expensive perfume in all the land. Regal and extravagant in its presentation in a Baccarat crystal bottle topped with a five carat diamond it is indeed a very beautiful package fit for a king. It received the 2006 FIFI award for packaging and presentation and deservedly so. Alas I found what comes in that sumptuous bottle to be an empty olfactory experience. The banquet hall is deserted. The king is dead.
Royal presentation of Clive Christian No.1
It is not a bad scent by any means but simply ordinary and fleeting at best in longevity. On my skin it dies in its youth lasting at most an hour. At these prices heads should roll for not living up to the hype.
The house claims to use the very best and most expensive of ingredients and I am sure they do but these notes do not come together with anything original, memorable or remarkable. The fragrance opens in a citrus and spice blend of lime, Mandarin Orange, grapefruit, and cardamom, nutmeg, artemisia, caraway that comes off to me as a simple orangeade soda pop. This fizzles out within seconds of hitting the skin.
The central notes of rose, lily of the valley, iris, ylang-ylang and heliotrope is simply a floral muddle to my nose. It struggles to bloom only do wither into my skin so swiftly as to make it near impossible for me to explore and enjoy what should be happening at this point. There is hardly a dry down where there are supposed to be notes of vanilla, Virginia cedar, vetiver, Tonka bean, musk and sandalwood. My skin very rarely eats a fragrance alive but on every testing of No.1 it swallowed the fragrance in one hungry gulp.
There are other Clive Christian perfumes out there to be explored and I do hope to find one that is more giving and generous than No.1 has proven to be. We shall see if the house of Clive Christian does have a perfume worthy of a king’s ransom. If not, then off with his head!
CLIVE CHRISTIAN NO.1 3 BRONZE STARS (TWO FOR PRESENTATION, ONE FOR FRAGRANCE)