Photos and paintings of Empress Eugenie, wife of Napoleon III show a beautiful lady in full Victorian regalia. The dresses, shawls, jewelry-- all of them firmly planted in the 19th century. The fragrance Histoire de Parfums names after her, 1826 Eugenie de Montijo, is soft and modern: a spicy incense laced with smooth floral notes. But just as there's more to the deceivingly mellow 1826, the empress was more than just a bejeweled figurehead.
Politics aside, Empress Eugenie has launched and sponsored the career of pioneer couturier Charles Frederick Worth, and together they devised a fashion plan to rid the world of the crinoline. In 1868, after gradual and subtle changes over several years, Eugenie and Worth presented the silhouette that was to rule the next decade and become most associated with Victorian fashion: straight and narrow in the front, voluminous and elaborate in the back (don't ask me why they thought it was a better idea than the crinoline or how exactly one was supposed to sit wearing those battleships over their butts).
Back to the Histoire de Parfums creation. The opening of 1826 gives me a somewhat Le Labo-ish vibe. It's something about the use of bergamot over spicier notes, and perhaps also a quick hit of labdanum. It's clear from the beginning that 1826 was designed to be pretty and friendly. It's moderately sweet and musky, a bit fuzzy and cashmere like, but not enough to choke one on a summer day. I find it easy to wear any time because it's just a tad understated and low key without losing the perfuminess feel that I like very much.
The connection between Histoire de Parfums 1826 and Empress Eugenie might have something to do with this observation by an English journalist, George Augustus Sala: “the beauty and grace of [Eugénie's] form seem to reflect […] the kindness and tenderness of her heart."(napoleon.org). The fragrance, despite the spicy heart, has a tenderness I enjoy a lot. The use of cinnamon and vanilla reminds me of certain parts in the development of Musc Ravageur, though 1826 is more floral and girly-- something with a hint of sweet sunshiny candied violets.
1826 dries down into a sweet fluffy musk-vanilla-patchouli. It stays in the background for large amounts of time and re-emerges when you almost forget all about it. I also find that it lasts longer than forever, especially if you get it on your clothes and bed linens. I love waking up to this airy sweetness on my comforter.
Notes: bergamot, tangerine, white flowers, violet, ginger, cinnamon, patchouli, amber, Jakarta incense and vanilla.
Histoire de Parfums- 1826 Eugenie de Montijo ($36, 14ml EDP) is available from beautyhabit.com. It also comes in larger sizes, of course.
Photo: Empress Eugénie praying by Gustave Le Gray, 1856 (gogmsite.net).