She is thought to have worn it on her wedding day as a young woman of 21, and rumour has it that the Queen was loyal to Guerlain’s L’Heure Bleue fragrance for the next 75 years. The heritage French perfume house behind it couldn’t officially comment, of course; like the Queen herself, it is discreet, steeped in tradition, yet surprisingly modern.
The scent's creator Jacques Guerlain called it “the fragrance of suspended time”. 'L’heure bleue' (the blue hour) is the french expression for the time between sunset and before nightfall when "we finally feel “at one with the world and the light”.
Dating back to 1912, L’Heure Bleue, wasn’t a fragrance I'd tried. But like many people who’d heard of the royal connection, I sought it out after the Queen died.
I can’t quite explain why – perhaps as a way of connecting with the woman behind the role at such a momentous time. I’m not the only one to have done so, it seems. Guerlain reported a 109 per cent increase in sales of L’Heure Bleue in the past two weeks.
On Friday, the week after her death was announced, I took a detour to the Guerlain counter in Selfridges, Oxford Street to smell it for myself. The sales assistant told the same story that the sales figures implied. Many more people had been asking for the Queen’s perfume L’Heure Bleu, she said, and she’d sold many more bottles of it, "particularly to older ladies”. I’m not sure whether she included me in that!
A person’s signature fragrance carries so much that’s unspoken; it’s a glimpse into who they are perhaps in private, in essence. It also represents a kind of ideal self, the person we want to be, the qualities we want to invite in, and how we want others to experience us. The fact that Princess Elizabeth as she was then, wore it on her wedding day in 1947 suggests it was deeply personal to her.
What does L’Heure Bleue smell like?
It was - and it wasn’t - what I’d expected. Still made in the original inverted heart-shaped stopper bottle, it’s fresh – thanks to bergamot – and soapy on first spritz, but then dries down to reveal an ambery, powdery floral base, characterised by iris and violet.
It’s not at all intense, it smells grown up, with a vintage feel, but it’s also surprisingly fresh and yes even a little sexy. In a younger wearer, it signifies an old head on young shoulders, and on an older person, it gives a sense of playfulness and intrigue. It's definitely a scent to carry you through life.
One of my 40-something fragrance-aficionado friends told me with delight, that it was in her top two all-time favourite scents. Younger members of the GTG team found it smelled “like talc” - something from another era that their grandmothers might have worn. Guaranteed, though, you won’t find five other people at a party wearing the same, as you do with Frédéric Malle Portrait of a Lady Eau de Parfum, Le Labo’s Santal 33 or Maison Francis Kurkdjian Baccarat Rouge 540.
Which notes are in the Queen’s perfume L’Heure Bleue by Guerlain?
- Top notes of aniseed, bergamot
- Heart note of neroli, carnation
- Iris, vanilla, benzoin, tonka bean, amber, violet
It’s not the only classic Guerlain fragrance to enter royal life. Diana famously wore the enigmatic Mitsouko (meaning 'mystery' in Japanese) and a BBC documentary earlier this year revealed that the Queen’s coronation anointing oil was actually housed in an old Mitsouko bottle and box, below (although the oil inside it would be a special blend).
It’s thought that the King will also use the same oil. Whether it will come from the Mitsouko bottle is unknown. However, with King Charles III's support for the environment, he may well be familiar with the Guerlain and the work it does for bee conservation. Camilla is also an ardent bee supporter; she was made president of the Bees For Development charity in 2020.
When you are next at a Guerlain counter, it’s definitely worth pausing to take in a slice of olfactory history in L’Heure Bleu and, perhaps, to remember the woman who so loyally wore it. It was created to celebrate the feeling of suspended time, and for many, that’s how the ten days of national mourning felt. But, like day turning to night, it also represents the possibility of exciting times ahead.
Buy L’Heure Bleue now