In historical romances, we often read at length about a lady’s toilette—soaps, cremes, face paints, powders and fragrance. Well, in starting my new trilogy, which is called ‘The Lords of Midnight,’ I began thinking about the gentlemen of the Regency. Now, we all know they were quite the dandies, so I decided to do a little research . . .
One doesn’t have to stroll very far in London to learn a lot about how the Tulips of the ton looked so perfectly polished. Simply walk down St. James’s Street and turn left onto Jermyn Street. There on the south side of the pavement you will come to Number 89, which houses Floris, the oldest family-run fragrance shop in the world.
It was in 1730 that Juan Famenias Floris came to London from the isle of Menorca, seeking to make his fortune. He and his wife Elizabeth opened a small shop on the fashionable street offering barbering and shaving to the fancy gentlemen who frequented the area. A skilled comb-maker, Floris had also learned to blend aromatic oils while living in Montpelier, France. He soon decided to add custom-blended fragrances to his shop. And the rest, as they say, is history . . .
Beau Brummell spent many hours discussing his preferences with Floris (a number of the original recipes for scents are in the Floris archives) And he was just one of the many notable people who were patrons of the shop. Lady Jersey was also a devoted client, as the ledgers show. In 1818, Mary Shelley, Mary Shelley, wife of the famed Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and author of Frankenstein wrote to a friend while she was living abroad and asked that her send her “two hairbrushes and a small toothbrush from Floris.”
In 1820, Floris was awarded a Royal Warrant as “Smooth Pointed Comb Maker to HM The King George IV.” (The shop still displays this original, and has 16 others to go with it—the shop is currently “Perfumers to HM The Queen Elizabeth II and Manufacturers of Toilet Preparations to HRH The Prince of Wales.”
Its products continued to attract a loyal following through the years. Florence Nightingale wrote a flowery missive thanking the shop for its “sweet-smelling nosegay.” And Ian Fleming favorite scent was #89—in his books, it’s the fragrance of choice for James Bond.
Today, a visit to the Floris shop is a delightful experience, not only for the fabulous scents but also for the wonderful wealth of vintage products and memorabilia on display. You can view elaborate tortoise shell hair combs for women, old letters and photographs . . .and choose a special fragrance to take home as a lasting reminder of its living history.
So, do you like a man to wear fragrance? Have you a special scent of your own, or you do like to try out diff
erent ones. (I’m a big fan of 4711, a light citrus-y scent that has an interesting history too.)