Not to alarm you but what historians claim that our ancestors hesitated to bathe is quite true. Hygiene among the noble people was rare to find and thus we can only imagine what they would have smelled like. But trust me, it wasn’t that bad after all because we are talking about King Louis’s court and it was known for its extensive use of perfumes and everything that smelled pleasant. What few of us are aware of is that our nobility had a great fear of water. People back then had a common belief that diseases travelled through water. Now this is what led them to stay away from it and eventually prevented them from bathing. They thought that the less they bathed the healthier they would stay. They couldn’t be further from the truth but we know that now, so let’s come them some slack this time. This is the reason that during King Louis XIV’s reign perfumes were used on a wide scale to scent every nook and corner of the castle and whatever possible. This actually happened and the air in and around the castle became so heavy with fragrance that the French court gradually came to be known as “the Perfumed Court.”
So was that it? That is what they did the entire time, day in and day out? Trying to hide and cover up unpleasant and pungent odors? Wouldn’t that be redundant and didn’t they have better things to do? Didn’t they have a kingdom to look after? The answer is yes and no. The truth is that they were not just used to hide a less than pleasing scents. Perfumes were in fact quite expensive to produce and clearly deemed as a sign of luxury. For instance, clothing perfume was used all over as a telling sign of one’s wealth. So this was not just a means to smell good but to portray a grander image.
Imagine the place that you live in is studded throughout with several bowls filled with loads of flower petals that sweeten the air. It is still something over the top but it is a castle, remember. In the same manner their furniture was given an equal opportunity to smell good as generous quantities of perfume were sprayed onto them. Not only this, but any visitors that came to the palace were doused with perfume before they entered. Even the fountains that were dispersed about the palace had scented water in them. Such became the impact of perfumes and fragrances on King Louis that he eventually grew extremely sensitive to all kinds of scents and would get migraines even at the slightest hint of a smell. This constant exposure to perfume did this to him and we don’t want any bit of it. Perfumes and fragrances were so essential back then and the constant need to smell good was so intense that it almost became an obsession. Well, I would say that it is a bit of obsession still but of a much smaller magnitude and we are definitely not dousing ourselves or each other in perfumes anymore.