Welcome to the weekly Perfume Chat Room, perfumistas! I envision this chat room as a weekly drop-in spot online, where readers may ask questions, suggest fragrances, tell others their SOTD, comment on new releases or old favorites, and respond to each other. The perennial theme is fragrance, but we can interpret that broadly. This is meant to be a kind space, so please try not to give or take offense, and let’s all agree to disagree when opinions differ. In fragrance as in life, your mileage may vary! YMMV.
Today is Friday, September 9, and the news is full of yesterday’s passing of Queen Elizabeth II, at the age of 96. There are many other places to debate the future of the monarchy, the British Empire’s impact, etc. This is not that place, as I know how widely opinions vary on those subjects. Today, I am focusing on Her late Majesty as a unique human being, who was born to privilege but also to lifelong service, including her unexpected ascension to the throne at the age of 25. At her birth, she was not expected to become the monarch but was thrust into the role of royal heir when her uncle abdicated, leaving her father to become King. He and her mother were models of duty and service — before, during and after World War II — and the young Elizabeth absorbed those lessons fully, performing official duties from her childhood until two days before her death, when she welcomed and appointed the UK’s new Prime Minister, Liz Truss. Extraordinary. (Ok, one political side note: I’m glad she lived long enough to see the changes in leadership in the USA and the UK, given the markedly poor manners of the two former leaders).
Full disclosure: I was raised by an English mother who, although she chose to leave England and its post-war constraints when she herself was in her early 20s, kept a high regard for Queen Elizabeth, her contemporary, and even identified with her as the older of two sisters, engrained with that sense of responsibility and duty. Her younger sister, my late aunt, had a personality more like Princess Margaret’s, but they were devoted to each other until my aunt’s early death from cancer in her 40s.
Bringing it back to fragrance, I’ve read that Queen Elizabeth’s favorite fragrances were Guerlain’s L’Heure Bleue and Floris’ White Rose. I haven’t tried the latter, but I have and love L’Heure Bleue. I also have a new fragrance that had already reminded me of Elizabeth, and will now be forever linked to her in my mind: Miller Harris’ Violet Ida. I received it earlier this month as a birthday gift, and it is lovely! As regular readers here know, Miller Harris is an English brand founded by London perfumer Lyn Harris. Violet Ida is actually based on iris and heliotrope, with top notes of bergamot and carrot seed, and base notes of vanilla and amber. It was inspired by the heroine of an English novel, whose name was Ida, whom the Miller Harris says “represents goodness, tenacity and morality.” That does seem appropriate for the late Queen as a person; and the pale violet color of Violet Ida‘s bottle evokes one of the pastel shades she favored in her public outfits.
It always made me foolishly happy that the Queen had such a lovely meeting with the late rosarian David Austin, the year they both turned 90, at the Chelsea Flower Show and the display of his gorgeous English Roses, my favorites. I will think of this great lady when I wear Violet Ida. Rest in peace, Elizabeth, and may flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.