Members of the royal family are known for setting many a sartorial trend. Whether it was Kate Middleton reinventing the modest wedding dress or Meghan Markle championing the cape gown, the royal stamp of approval makes for an instant classic. But what about their tastes for the ephemeral—specifically, the personal scent?
You can’t see perfume or cologne, but it leaves an indelible mark on the memory. Not to mention it can elevate just about any outfit, moment, or mood. The right spritz can put a bounce in one’s step or make one feel utterly sophisticated—so there’s no better group of individuals to model one’s fragrance tastes after than the royal family.
Queen Elizabeth II
Queen Elizabeth reportedly wore Guerlain L’Heure Bleue, a spicy citrus with a powdery dry down. It’s been a classic for the fragrance house ever since the scent was created in 1912.
The late queen was also, apparently, a fan of Chanel’s classic No. 5 scent. In a 1955 letter to Prince Philip’s chief of staff Frederick Arthur Montague Browning, which appeared in the V&A museum’s retrospective on Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, Elizabeth wrote, “As usual, you have discovered just the very thing I particularly wanted, and I want to thank you very much indeed for the birthday present of the Chanel scent. I am already using it and, I hope, smelling all the better for it!!”
In his 2023 memoir Spare, Prince Harry revealed that his father takes scent very seriously. “He was always sniffing things. Food, roses, our hair. He must’ve been a bloodhound in another life,” Harry wrote. “Maybe he took all those long sniffs because it was hard to smell anything over his personal scent. Eau Sauvage. He’d slather the stuff on his cheeks, his neck, his shirt. Flowery, with a hint of something harsh, like pepper or gunpowder, it was made in Paris. Said so on the bottle. Which made me think of Mummy.”
For her 2011 wedding to Prince William, the Princess of Wales chose a springtime scent that was redolent with buttery white floral notes by little-known British Perfumer Illuminum.
Much like her future daughter-in-law, Princess Diana picked a soft white floral scent for her wedding day in 1981. The late Princess of Wales wore Houbiquant’s Quelques Fleurs, a sumptuous blend of tuberose, jasmine, lily of the valley, and rose to marry Prince Charles.
In his memoir, Spare, Prince Harry also revealed his mother’s favorite scent—First by Van Cleef & Arpels. In fact, that the fragrance, with its notes of hyacinth, rose, jasmine, amber, and sandalwood, was so closely associated with his mother that years later, breathing in the scent during a therapy session brought memories of her flooding back.
“I read somewhere that smell is our oldest sense, and that fitted with what I experienced in that moment,” he wrote, “Images rising from what felt like the most primal part of my brain.”
Lubin, a storied French fragrance house (and one of the nation’s oldest) uncovered a formula for the fragrance that they made for the Queen prior to her death. So in 2011 they created a reincarnation with a mix of rose, jasmine, cinnamon, incense, and sandalwood, and named it Black Jade. If wealth were a smell, it would certainly be this.
Grace Kelly famously wore a fragrance from Creed, a royal favorite since 1780, to marry Prince Rainier of Monaco. Her husband-to-be had in fact commissioned Fleurissimo as a wedding day gift for his bride. The aristocratic spritz dries down to a bouquet of tuberose, violet, iris, and Bulgarian rose.
In an interview with the Express, the Duchess of Sussex explained that she loves fragrance so much that she has three that she alternates between, including Wild Bluebell by Jo Malone London.