When you trawl the lists of fragrances that are released in the names of the rich and famous, it can be startling to discover how many ‘celebrities’ – from pop stars, to actors, to hand puppets (Miss Piggy, ‘Moi’) have released, and continue to release, celebrity fragrances. While some singers – Ariana Grande, Beyonce, Rihanna, Jennifer Lopez – have reams of editions of fragrances in their rosters, appealing to their young fan bases who can possess and then spritz on their own skin their ‘idol’s perfume’, some other perfumes released by well known people and entities are somewhat more baffling and unexpected: AH by Anthony Hopkins, E by Princess Elizabeth Of Yugoslavia, Milk And Cookies by Andy Kaufman; Zombie by Elvira, Mistress Of The Dark; ‘Hello’, by ….. Lionel Ritchie.
Unlike the original fame-linked tie-ins with perfume houses, where starlets in the public eye could make a deal with a fragrance manufacturer to benefit both parties – the original ‘Catherine Deneuve’ with Avon was said to be a magnificent chypre, many still yearn for Cher’s ‘Uninhibited’ and ‘Spectacular’ by Joan Collins – the face of the scent need not even be alive any more in the current ocean of perfume overproduction to now release a scent: Judy Garland, Frida Kahlo, Whitney Houston, Elvis and Muhammed Ali (‘Round One’, ‘Final Round’ etc) have all had new fragrances come out recently; I have a perfume in my collection ‘by’ Marilyn Monroe from 1982 even though she died twenty years earlier. I have them by Madonna, Kylie, and Lady Gaga. And Forever Krystle by Krystle Carrington. I would quite like to get my hands on Amphibia, by Kermit. And yet somehow, despite the fascinating, ever-proliferating list of celebrity-related perfumes, the most interesting to me, in some ways, is ‘Penhaligons’ Highgrove Bouquet’, by the just coronated ….King Charles III.
Created in tandem with perfumer Julie Pluchet, who spent a lot of time at the gardens of the royal estate at Highgrove in Gloucestershire studying the plants and flowers that bloom there in summer – in particular, the scent of the tilia petriolaris, or weeping lime trees (linden), whose pungent perfume is said to not only dominate the entire gardens in summertime but also permeate the house inside and therefore the mainstay around which Charles wanted the perfume to be founded, the scent is very pastoral, almost fey (the linden flower note was created artificially in the laboratory with ‘headspace’ technology to capture the precise scent of the botanical effusion, some of which comes across in an ever so slightly chemical ‘air freshener’ aspect to the perfume – very potent on skin, that nevertheless links nicely to the mimosa and tuberose main theme requested by (the then) Prince Charles, working with Penhaligons to achieve his desired, very English, effect) – the main characteristic of the perfume – unabashedly floral and romantic – laid over a very dainty and pleasant lavender and geranium cedar accord in the base, and a touch of skin-close, unthreatening, white musk – rather charming.
With a percentage of the profits of this perfume going to charity (and the gardens open to the public: I would quite like to go, actually, as I love perfumed, trailing wisteria and the like – D and I were wandering among roses and peonies, blue cornflowers and wisteria just the other day in Ofuna Flower Gardens) – the existence of Highgrove Bouquet delineates, quite well I think, the preoccupations of the eccentric new king – mainly ecological and architectural preservation, but also a desire for community and a pluralistic inclusivity – all which I completely agree with. Its very existence is slightly intriguing. The royals have always worn perfume – Queen Elizabeth wore possibly the best perfume ever created, L’Heure Bleue by Guerlain; Prince Harry has been said to have been taking Van Cleef and Arpels’ First with him to therapy sessions to help him deal with his emotions connected to Princess Diana; William is said to wear Blenheim Bouquet (which D sometimes wears), also by Penhaligons – yet you don’t expect them to actually come out with a perfume of their own. I quite like Highgrove Bouquet, therefore, for this anomalous fact, and for its highlighting of a flower that doesn’t get used very much in perfumery, linden blossom- a strange, dreamy, pollenous scent. Sometimes we all need to sit under a weeping tree in a garden and have a moment.
As for the coronation itself on Saturday, though we hadn’t planned to necessarily watch it (I knew I would see all the fors and against later in the newspaper and on social media; it has been interesting reading about the very differing attitudes towards the event, all of which I understand completely : given the dire economic situation of the country, with people unable to eat, it does all feel rather callous and tone deaf to be holding an event of this nature but then again, centuries of tradition are hardly just going to be thrown out of the window, there is an inevitability to this which it seems almost pointless trying to thwart, plus most people, myself included, if they are honest with themselves, are at least partially fascinated by all the pomp and regalia that you don’t get to really see very often; it’s all very complicated )….. and so in the middle of Tsujido, a boring place to be, on Saturday evening, where we had just been to a travel agent’s to book extortionately priced tickets back to the UK for the summer, after noodles in a cheap chain restaurant, and with cans of beer and whiskey highballs from the convenience store, we decided to just watch it casually while walking back to the station on my iPhone.
It was one of those real ‘expat’ moments, where Japanese people were walking by obliviously and we were the gaijin watching the unfolding formal ludicrousness on the screen with all the often deathly dull chorales jarring strangely from the phone speakers on the inner suburban streets and neon lights (I would find that one minute I would be genuinely impressed by the whole affair, the composition of the scenes, the ornaments and costumes as beautiful as angels in a Giotto painting, some of the choral work quite exultant, but then laughing out loud at the camp and awkward stiffness of it all – I thought Camilla was probably drunk – at the very least, she was very fidgety and grinning as though on gin; many of the participants didn’t look right in their regalia at all and I felt that Charles just looked embarrassed to be there – ashamed, almost, desperate to get it all over with the whole time though doggedly doing his part right (though he was probably just very nervous; I would love to have been able to hear what he and Camilla had to say about it all in private once back in their pyjamas). Some of the deep religiosity of the ceremony struck me as ridiculous; insulting, almost, as though Charles could be compared with Jesus Christ – but I also was relieved that nobody dropped the orb or had a heart attack or anything along those lines, that nothing disastrous happened, that there were no terrorist attacks or anything of that nature, and that some people in the country at least must have been having a good time (it’s a day off across the UK today, so there will certainly plenty of celebrating going on: the pubs at least should get a bit of a boost). It was also fun reading about all of the fashion successes and fails of the day – just as it was after the lacklustre Met Gala – Billie Eilish and L’il Nas X, and Jad Leto dressed up as Choupette, Karl Lagerfeld’s cat aside : – Penny Mordant looked atrocious, a failed Anne Boleyn via Marks And Spencer’s; Katy Perry, a pop star with a fair few celebrity perfumes herself under her big-eyed belt, dazzling in pink but blushingly unable to find her seat at the crowning because she couldn’t even see in front of her her hat was so big; all of it, whether you loved or loathed it, celebrated with Coronation Quiche and bubbles at local street parties, or furiously demonstrated against it, at least the coronation had everyone engaged.
(definitely a bit sozzled)
My own personal feeling is that, despite the obscene amount of wealth in his possession and all the privilege he has always been ‘entitled’ to, it can’t really have been easy being Prince Charles all those years in everyone’s shadow. The man is very far from perfect – just like the rest of us – which is what felt so wrong about all the ‘God Ordained’ crap at the ceremony as I don’t believe he was divinely cherry picked not even for one microsecond – it is just power grabs throughout history that get passed on to other generations – along with all the trauma and the emotional baggage; but at the same time, he does, ultimately, seem to be a rather intelligent, thoughtful person whose heart is basically in the right place. Unlike so many other people in positions of power, he at least gives the impression of wanting to instigate intergenerational, cross-cultural healing, to help young people grow, to improve the world in some way rather than just destroy it or just inflame. As king – no matter what you think about the institution – he has a unique opportunity, now, to intercede in governmental plans when he feels it is ethically necessary (to me, the tories are, in general, quite amoral, greedy, very cruel people only out for themselves; at the weekly royal meetings with the PM, Charles will thus at the very least be able to hopefully subtly influence decisions that will reflect on the majority, not merely the coddled wealthy and upper classes: this, in my view, is his true moral duty. And if he occasionally needs to just then hide among the wisterias and camellias and jonquils and royal rhododendrons for a while; sit reading poetry, sipping tea or whatever tipple takes his fancy, alongside the true love of his life, sighing among the tilia petriolaris, even dabble in perfumery as an escape; then who can really blame him?
29 responses to “A PERFUME CREATED FOR (AND BY) A KING : HIGHGROVE BOUQUET by PENHALIGONS (2O22)”
I am old enough to remember seeing his mother’s coronation on our neighbors’s TV (we didn’t have one yet). It was almost unbearably beautiful, solemn and moving. And mysterious—the anointing—very medieval, like an ordination. I loved seeing the peers in their robes (probably reeking of mothballs), the tiaras… So much of all that was missing, but I think this coronation was the best that could be produced in our (debased) world and just about perfectly pitched, in fact. I loved it. I believe Charles, like his mother, took that anointing very seriously and will be a wonderful king if given a chance. And I am very glad he has Camilla at his side. Now
I am happy to know he has a perfume, too!
Yes I was astonished to find it out too. If I were more obsessed with reading every last new bite of information that came out I would have known a long time ago, but my timing also feels quite serendipitous here.
I can imagine the anointing with the oil must have been far more awe-inspiring back then. Me and D were wondering what the hell was going on behind the screens – if he was changing outfits or something like a stadium pop concert.
They remove his clothes except for a simple white shirt. He kneels, I think, while the archbishop anoints him (in France it was in several spots: head, breast, shoulders, etc. but I don’t know about England) It is after that that he emerges, is dressed in the coronation robe, given the regalia, crowned. I love that much of this goes back to Charlemagne, maybe even farther. Almost nothing in our world feels sacred, but to me that still does.
I know what you mean, even if, as I say here, the supposed sacredness of the whole thing is highly problematic.
I would love to be able to smell the oil though!
Love your take on things, N. I was nodding my head in agreement all the way along. My favourite snippet of the day was when Catherine knelt down in front of a little girl of perhaps five or six whose red face was tear-streaked, crying, her little Coronation headband with its decorated antennae shaking along with the rest of her, clearly overwhelmed by having a real princess so close. You could hear Catherine murmuring reassurances, then gently saying, “Would you like a hug?” The crowd around them awwwwed as she put her arm around her. The little girl was still crying but you could see she was loving the Royal hug. Mum caught it all on her phone. The best thing was how genuine it was, how instinctively maternal and loving; it was done without a damn being given about the press lenses behind her or potential media buzz.
Otherwise, I did find that I missed the grainy, blurry, black-and-white, long-view imagery of Queen Elizabeth’s televised coronation. The mystery, the distance and otherworldliness were all absent on Saturday. It was uncomfortably human somehow. Earth-bound. Too close, too magnified. As if I could smell the gin on Camilla’s breath. And Harry with his doltish perma-smile for the cameras. Give me fantasy any day.
Thanks for the usual enticing descriptions of those Penhaligons.
The thing about Kate is that to me, she is just a posh-ish girl – like the ones I had all around me at Cambridge – married into the clan – I can’t think of her as a ‘princess’ as such even if she is a decent person: she certainly sounds it here (and I am going to have to go and look for this Youtube moment now).
I was quite pleasantly surprised by this very meadowy-at-home scent : linden is a funny one, isn’t it? but it did kind of work. At least nothing else around it in Hankyu Men’s smelled like that.
I can’t vouch for Anthony Hopkins or Lionel Ritchie Hello as I haven’t smelled them.
I’ve always gotten a smile out of Alan Cumming’s TV commercial for his eponymous fragrance. Never tried it, though. I hear it’s not half bad.
Just checked it out
His smarminess always highly gives me the jeebs
£ 100 million is a whopping price tag!
Yet what would the alternative have been: a paired down Coronation Lite? Some modest affair in a football stadium? If the monarchy is not to implode then the „mystique“ — the fairy tale or the lie — will have to be reinacted properly.
Two thoughts: Who has a clear picture in their mind how the German head of state, the Federal President (Bundespräsident) in „enthroned“? Up to three rounds of excruciating plainness in the Bundestag. Does anyone actually know who the guy is?
Second thought: We all have seen public buildings built smaller, plainer, cheaper because the times are so trying. But: Times are always trying and we‘re stuck with an ugly building for the next 70 years!
Still £ 100 million is a staggering sum. I‘m not quite sure what to think …
I think it is good to be on the fence about it but also, as you are doing, facing reality. No mystique, no ‘magic’, no monarchy – which I am not especially bothered about as an idea, but am not sure what the alternative would be like realistically.
Also, now that the UK is cut off from Europe, without all the royal rubbish, you probably wouldn’t get any tourists coming in, and the whole place would sink even further into the mire.
I think that he/ it could have been a whole lot worse. Was it just me though, or did he not look rather aghast throughout? Or, as I said, was it just being horrendously nervous about making a mistake?
We very nearly didn’t see it – D is COMPLETELY not bothered: I just didn’t want to miss a historical moment that everyone else would be talking about afterwards. I needed to see it with my own eyes live in the moment to form my own opinion.
As for the plainness of the Bundestag rituals – they sound bizarrely fascinating. Grey upon beige upon light wood and concrete.
I thought he was truely moved, whereas the new Queen was acting rather strange. Tottering around as if she were 95; fiddling around with the hair under the crown (Christ, how many 100s of million people are watching, just let those f…ing stray strands of hair be); bossing around the children on the balcony; patting C. on the arm to stop waiving to the crowds and bloody come inside for a much needed drink.
But perhaps these folks too are nervous?
Yes, the fiddling!
And all the women had drag level makeup.
But maybe you are right about Charles’ expression: it might literally have been what you say – overcome by it all actually happening.
What a great post – you always manage to just capture things perfectly. I was in the South of France Saturday, half-watching the goings-on in that old rain-soaked island, on an old television through an open patio door, while doing outdoor jobs in the blinding sunshine. It all felt so irrelevant and ridiculous. And Camilla did look unsuited to wearing that crown (a French friend said “Mais elle n’a pas de classe, cette Camilla!! Elle ne sait pas se tenir correctement!”….she has no class, she doesn’t know how to hold/comport herself correctly…). And yet…I had watched the old queen’s funeral and been impressed by the pageantry and the solemnity….I’m not sure what was different this time. Maybe just the continuing “cirque”, or the sense that these two are just placeholders for a short time, or that with all their wealth and some degree of power, there is so much more this whole family could be doing. I was thinking about the history of the jewels they were wearing on their heads. I came back to the UK yesterday, to warm sunshine and my own wisteria coming out. There are things to be thankful for. Highgrove sounds lovely; in the meantime, some Eau de Campagne for me.
Agh I wish I still had some in my collection! Sometimes you need some tomato leaf galbanum and basil.
As for Camilla, I actually rather like her, and I can hardly judge people who drink (a lush knows another): I think she looked kind of divine in a way- just a bit Jemima from Playschool-y on the throne – aspect of ragdoll
Ah, yes, that was it! Ragdoll! And I should not judge; she just looked a little stooped, as I may do any day now. Meanwhile, my most recent Eau de Campagne seems to have changed a little; harsher, thinner…in a bigger bottle…Still the same tomato but just the green leaf now, no depth.
I know … the change horrifies me too – really want a crisp pristine vintage bottle ( impossible): SO much more sophisticated before
Loved this piece! One of our favourite Kneippe bath salts is the Linden flower one!
Agreed with pretty much all your observations about the coronation but felt you were a bit mean about Penny Mordaunt 😅. I mean even Courtney Love was fangirling…(admittedly you got the Anne Boleyn part spot on!)
Some fabulous quotes from todays press about Mordaunt
“even the American singer Courtney Love Cobain has been fangirling her on Twitter: “I’m now obsessed with @PennyMordaunt taking it WAY up a notch with ACTUAL! Tudor! Full #annofcleves #annboleyn #janeseymour Headdress holding this golden SWORD! #boudicca vibes. obsessed! I couldn’t take my eyes off her!” Well, quite.”
all I was seeing were a dumpy eyesore – I thought it was a joke
“a failed Anne Boleyn via Marks And Spencer’s” That made me guffaw! As did a friend’s post which stated “A nation united in lust for Penny Mordaunt, acording to my social media”.
I related 100% to your observations, I watched in a strange place between fascination, awe and hysterics. My feelings about the monarchy are mixed too. Charles in his pie-crist shirt looked strangely akin to a little boy being put to bed by his uncles.
I get that ritual is an important part of human experience, and this was as you say, inevitable. I felt flashes of irritation at the ostentatious display of wealth, yet it’s what’s expected of them. And I get that it’s helpful to have figureheads representing Britain that are separate from politics, except that they’re not exactly apolotical, depending on your political view, plus I can’t see that their values, as a whole, represent British people.
On the other hand, I remember working as an arts manager for the national health service in Stoke on Trent, and in Birmingham an their presence was everywhere. When Stoke on Trent potteries such as Spode went into liquidation, it was Clarence House who stepped in with 7 million so Emma Bridgewater pottery survived. And when I worked in Birmingham and saw first-hand the devastation caused to young men in the Afghanistan conflict, almost every week one of the princes would turn up to visit the men in critical care. Not to mention money poured in to help these causes.
Anyway, your take on it was therapeutic, because several people I chatted to were gushing about it, and I think these rituals have an almost hypnotic effect on the public. If you’ve ever watched the tv show Survivor, you’ll know what I mean when I say that it’s though Charles was presented with about 100 idols and immunity necklaces. Think of the difference in meeting him now, as opposed to a year ago, it’s quite something!
The music was great though eh?
Loved reading your post Neil (and the responses to it). I have always had a soft spot for Charles which I can’t quite explain. Enormous wealth and privelige aside, his eyes have always betrayed a sensitive man trapped in a claustrophobic life. Nature, perfume, music, art and all the rest of it, are genuinely an escape. Lucky for him, he can indulge these passions. As for tipsy Camilla; still under the influenc at the Coronation concert I think, she’d rather be running a book club than attending a coronation (even her own). I can’t muster any animosity towards either of them – whatever I think of the monarchy as an institution. However, on these occasions, I am ALWAYS infuriated by the ‘minor’ royals (let’s include Andrew in that group) – enjoying front row seats, all the privalege and none of the pressure. They invariably look confused and/or contemptuous everytime anyone outside their ‘class’, or of colour, appears as part of a royal ceremony. THEY can ALL f*** off and I have a strong feeling Charles might be with me on that.
Love the way you put this.
And yes ;Andrew is a disgrace all round
‘His eyes have always betrayed a sensitive man trapped in a claustrophobic life’.
This encapsulates him exactly
A twitter perfume friend told me that years ago, when they worked in a well-known niche perfumery, Camilla only ever bought things that were on sale!
kind of cool
WHAT DID SHE BUY ?!!!
He said he won’t tell me in case it puts me off something I wear! (I did suggest Putain de Palaces but I’m not proud of that)
Reading this post and all the comments was very enjoyable and interesting. I did watch the coronation for a little while, even though I am not a fan of Charles or Camilla. Being king is what Charles has wanted all his life (if I recall, he wanted the Queen to give up her throne long ago). As for Camilla, although I do not know much about her except that she has always been a “want to be” and now she is Queen Consort. The only royal I really liked was Princess Diana. Thanks you Neil for this wonderful piece of prose regarding the event. No one could have done it better.
Thanks very much indeed – I enjoyed writing it !
This sounds lovely, linden blossom & mimosa underscored with cedar. I shall have to try it!
On the Met Gala – Doja Cat’s dress was everything ! I wants me the preshusss! ( I really wasn’t expecting much at a Lagerfeld themed event, not a fan of his shallow nastiness and dull “classic” designs.)
On the coronation: It did drag on mercilessly, the Queen’s funeral seemed almost cheery in comparison. The multicultural participants were a much needed freshness. I was not surprised at all the Christian references as all royalty used divine right as legitimacy for their reign. Kind of hammered home the insistence on separation of church and state in my native USA.
On Penny Mordaunt’s ensemble:
Y’know some outfits require heavy duty foundation undergarments to achieve the desired silhouette. Whomever dressed Ms Mordaunt should have known better. She was obviously struggling with those heels (I would too) and saggy boobs set off by a droopy cape in a heavy fabric didn’t help. She looked like an unhappy potato in an 80s air stewardess uniform – and she’s a beautiful woman! Apparently she had to take painkillers to endure the event. I would have put her in a sensible heel (as the Queen wore), got her properly fitted in a long line brassiere with stays & underwire ( a must for large bosomed gals such as Penny and myself), and popped some boxy shoulder pads in that cape. She would then be comfortably supported in spine, boob, and foot for the long day standing. And take it from me, my beauty pageant winning Texan cousins, and any drag queen – big shoulders and perky bosoms make your waist and hips look hourglass ( even if you don’t have a waist or hips).