A LETTER FROM VERSAILLES ~ Fleur de Louis by Arquiste



Réception du Grand Condé à Versailles (1878) by Jean-Léon Gérôme


My Dear Louise,

I hope this letter finds you well in Venice. Much has happened here at court since you left for Italy and the less demanding attentions of the Doge over those of our King.

The Queen is dead; of this I am sure you are by now quite aware. Sweet and lovely Queen Marie Theresa passed most painfully into Gods care on July 30, 1683. My dear friend the Queen expired in my very arms and I am bereft.  Upon her death his Majesty said. “This is the first trouble which she has given me.”  I was told he had the cologne he wore the day of his meeting her, L’Eau d’Ange sprinkled on his mourning dress and wig and placed into all the Oiselets de Chypre infusers to perfume the chateau.

Subsequently Versailles is in an uproar! Dressmakers, wigmakers, perfumers, cobblers are arriving in droves and the corridors are crawling with them as they rush like mad bees from apartment to apartment of all the quite hysterical ladies of the court. The hunt is on and I do not mean for foxes or deer in the Versailles Forest. No matter how young or for that matter, decrepit some ladies may be they are all casting there nets to catch the kings eye. It is a comedy worthy of that charming Monsieur Moliere. (The King has ordered a revival performance of “Les Fourberies de Scapin” to ease his mourning, or so I am told)

In any case my dear is it a madhouse here in the palace. While the King is sniffing orange blossoms from the trees he brought from Spain in the Orangery for the Queen’s pleasure the lines are being drawn in the sand for a war of silk fans and lace garters. His Majesty’s current mistress, Madame de Montespan is on her way down, down, down. The king is so obviously tired of her. I can hear the convent bells tolling her name or at the very least a rustic forgotten chateau far from court is very much in her cards.

Madame du Ville, is pushing her overdressed idiot thirteen year old daughter before her everywhere like a bread cart in Paris. She might as well be shouting “Fresh young virgin (I doubt it) for the taking!” The Madames Helene Dampierre and Josephine Joussineau de Troudonnet are in open but silent battle over a certain jeweler from Pairs who has for sale the most stunning earbobs in emeralds and diamonds. They both want those jewels to lure his majesty to there beds. As if earrings could catch a king over charm and style and a perfectly powdered bosom.

As for me I am standing back and watching the entertainment from a safe distance. I did not come to court to make a fool of myself. No, on the contrary I came to court to make a name for myself and to better my lot in life. In other words I shall find small ways to comfort his majesty’s grief, to be of assistance in any way I can. In short I shall dab a bit of “Pommade de Florence” in a few well chosen strategic places, bide my time and in so doing become indispensable to the King.

Other than that, not much is going on at Versailles.

I hope all is well with you? Don’t lose your head to some rich Venetian and keep your sights on the Doge. We must make our way in this world the best we can with the talents that god gave us as women.

Yours ever and always,

Madame de Maintenon signature 3



Photograph of young Louis XIV – The Sun King  by Alexia Sinclair

Fleur de Louis by Arquiste is inspired by the moment when King Louis XIV first laid eyes upon his young Spanish bride Marie Theresa of Spain. They met at the Isle of Pheasants near the city of Irun on the border of France and Spain in 1660. The meeting was not only to present the young princess to the King but to ensure peace between France and Spain. As it is today it was not considered good luck in the 17th Century to see the bride before the wedding but Louis being bold and of an entitled nature presented himself to King Philip IV and his daughter. To avert the awkward moment the Spanish King pretended not to see Louis and his daughter being a proper catholic princess blushed and lowered her eyes. But not before she got an spectacular eyeful of her future.

This perfume created by Rodrigo Flores-Roux for Carlos Huber’s Arquiste line captures the splendor and elegance of the age of the Sun King. It opens with a gorgeous African Orange blossom that Louis who was known as the sweetest smelling monarch in Europe loved. This orange note also brings in a touch of Spain and the Infanta Marie Theresa. Rose, jasmine signify the favorite perfume of the King, L’Eau d’Ange. Under this is a warm iris note supported by an earthy deep royally rich Orris which gives a nod to the ladies of the French court who wore Pomade de Florence which the king loved.  In the base is a sturdy cedar note that blends with a fresh bright pine note. These wood notes add a strong masculine support the waning notes in the dry down. I find that even though it is marketed to women Fleur de Louis is very much a uni-sex fragrance fit for a King and his consort (and however many mistresses he may have).

It is delicate, refined and quite beautiful and falls in feeling somewhere between a classic eau de cologne and a fine perfume. One might expect that description to mean it smells old fashioned. Not at all in fact, I find this perfume to be youthful, bright and full of colorful nuances.  Both the sillage and  longevity are of a moderate nature. It projects at about arms length which I find perfect and lasts on my skin around six hours.

This sophisticated and beautiful perfume is indeed a royal treasure to be enjoyed by all who wish to share the moment of promise that once enfolded a king and queen at the dawn of the Sun King’s reign.



LET THEM BATHE IN PERFUME! ~ Cologne Royale la Collection Privée by Christian Dior


“It looks just like our Petit Trianon back home.” I said as I took photos of my friend William in the tiny and cramped gate house framing him against the little round window through which could be seen the private diminutive palace of Marie Antoinette.


“But it is the real thing.” He said. “Ours in San Francisco is a pale copy.”

It was our last day in France and we had saved Versailles for our final immersion in all things French. The palace was magnificent, the gardens sublime. No more so than off the main paths that lead away from the Grand Canal to the Grand and the Petit Trianon as well as the Hameau de la Reine. The further away from the grand Château we walked the less we saw of others touring the grounds. By the time we reached the little palace we were quite alone.  The planned wildness of the gardens had captured my imagination and I could almost believe that around the next box hedge I would find a small group of courtiers from the court of The Sun King. What magic it all seemed to possess, a sad haunted magic in the end.


A soft mist was falling from the grege colored April sky as we walked into the entrance of the intimate little hideaway of the Queen. As we passed from room to room we could feel the presence of something extraordinary. The furnishings were all put back in place as they had been before the Revolution. The only light in the rooms came from the French windows giving each room the softness of a watercolor in blues and silvers.

I stood at the window of the dining room looking out over a small formal garden feeling so peaceful and a little at home.


“OH Harry just look at this room! It’s just like Sylvia and Oscar’s dinning room in Oyster Bay!” Her voice could crack open the lost tomb of Alexander the Great.  I turned to see her sweep into the room overdressed, painted, pulled and plumped. She ran her hand along the edge of the dinning table and then picked up a plate. “I have to find this exact pattern when we get back home.”  She flipped the plate over to inspect the bottom.

Her private guide was paled by her snatching up of the priceless porcelain. “Please Madame you must not touch. These are priceless museum pieces.”  She ignored him as she tossed her teased dyed Titian tresses and grabbed her ancient husband by the arm and squeezed it till he winced. “We just have to recreate this room in the new house. I want it to be better than Sylvia’s. I want it to be better than even this!’ She whipped out a camera from her YSL bag and backed up into an 18th century cabinet taller than she was and set it rocking.


“Madame Please! We must move on now.” The poor guide whimpered. Harry gave him a nasty look. When she was quite finished she swept past William and I as if we were just dusty window treatments that she was most definitely not impressed with.

I looked at my friend horrified and embarrassed by this woman from my country who felt so entitled that she had no respect or appreciation of where she was or what she was really seeing.

“That woman was a pig!” I said.

“I bet she yells at Parisians in English thinking they will understand her.”  William said.

Then I saw it. The cabinet she had bumped into had pressed up against the wall and and had left a crack in it.

“She broke the wall!”

We went over to investigate. “No she didn’t” William said. “It’s a hidden compartment in the wall. When she bumped into the cabinet it must have hit the trigger on the wall. See it’s right here and…Look!”


We both leaned in at the same time and hit our heads together. Neither of us felt the bump.

“What do you see?” The rain was coming down really hard outside and made it so dark in the room that I couldn’t see anything in the cubby hole.

“Wonderful things…” He whispered as if it was King Tutankhamen’s tomb and he was Howard Carter.

It all came into focus. There was a black silk fan covered in dust and cobwebs, some coins, an old parchment letter with the wax seal broken and a small bottle of perfume.


I reached for the bottle.

“Don’t touch it!” My friend cautioned but it was already in hand.

I read the faded writing on the perfume label, “Cologne Royale” I whispered. “It is a bottle of Cologne Royale. What does the letter say?”

He gingerly opened the ancient manuscript and part of the edges fell away. “It’s in French I can’t read it. But it is addressed to ‘Votre Majesté Royale and signed Hans Axel Von Fersen.’ Open the bottle … what does it smell like?”

I pulled at the sealed stopper but to no avail. There were voices coming now from the next room. “I can’t get it open!”

“Someone is coming! Put it back!” He shoved the letter back into its tomb.

“No I want to smell it.” He tried to take the perfume away from me and in the struggle it fell to the floor and shattered.

That is how we ended our vacation in France, Two loud ugly Americans explaining to the French police how we found the lost treasures of Le Petit Trianon and destroyed forever the only surviving bottle of perfume owned by Marie Antoinette.



Cologne Royale la Collection Privée by Christian Dior is a modern elegant take on the classic 18th century Eau de Cologne. In fact inspired by just such colognes, it is delicate and beautiful in the way the best colognes are. One is reminded of No. 4711 eau de Cologne which as been in production since 1790 or of Santa Maria Novella Acqua de Colonia which was created for Catherine Di Medici, Queen of France. There is a long and colorful history of smelling good in Paris and what better way to celebrate the history of that tradition than with a classic royal cologne from the house of Dior.

Perfumer Francois Demachy has chosen the most wonderful blend of citrus, neroli and musk to bring a vision of the glory days of powdered wigs and scented fans to life. But it is not stuffy or old fashioned in the least. For in choosing a strictly narrow style of the eau de cologne Demachy has somehow managed to breathe new life into an old form. It is the perfect after bath refreshment and a wonderful base on which to layer a more substantial fragrance for later in the day or evening. It is more refreshing than merely “Fresh”.

Like all eau de colognes the projection and longevity are short lived thus making Cologne Royale the ultimate in a luxury fragrance. One must be extravagant and rather caviler to wear Royale at about, at the very most three hours and such a price. But if you are of the let them eat cake mindset then why not indulge in a bottle of Cologne Royale. What a lovely couture fragrance for the Comte or Comtesse in every perfume lover.

chapel ceiling

Madame le peuple puent. Laissez-les se baigner dans parfum!




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