The other women of the court no matter how grand, or close to the King, had always to call for their carriages.
She need only look up, or smile, or tilt her head and the servants come running to gather together her party and fetch her coach and four.
Hers is a dignity not available for sale.
An elegance to be bought only by self possession and unassailable poise.
She saw out the terror and has seen Europe wrenched apart.
So a little jostling at court now cannot not unsettle her.
It is 1837 after all and the world apart from her is still a grimy place.
She begins her exit of the crumbling grand salon where military officers still smell of battles fought years ago, Barons of theirs wars with excess and the hems of the dresses of all the other women from dowagers to debutantes are frayed and greyed with dust.
She is luminous in spotless ivory. Her laundry is impeccable. Her linens the envy of France.
In the air behind her she trails citrus cologne higher and fresher and cleaner than even that worn by the Empress herself.
On her left wrist a corsage of miniature mandarin roses, the most fragrant colour, is woven together with jasmine and a single purple iris, its mouth open to show a fleshy yellow interior.
At the threshold, she turns and the train of her dress swirls through the air with a stage whisper.
In a wave the other courtiers wane from her swell.
Her presence is a calm ocean be-stilling their turbulent waters.
She curtseys deeply to the empty throne and departs leaving them in silence.
On the steps, she takes leave of her family, who have elected to see what remains of the ball through to its conclusion.
She ascends her conveyance and is comforted by the knowledge she will travel home alone.
The horses hooves rattle over the cobble stones and the wheels jolt now and again.
Even for her, the dark streets of Paris at a little after midnight seem a dangerous place.
The poor, the disaffected, the cholera.
She inhales and, above a trace of the horses’ aroma: animal and honest, feels the warm fragrance of the transparent soap from London that keeps her and her clothes bright, radiating around her.
She is enrapt in concocted cleanliness.
In a rapture of pretended purity.
It is 1837 and, after all, the world apart from her is still a grimy place.
This is how she has survived.
As other perfumes are to detergent, so Caleche by Hermes is to the finest thrice milled soap.
From the very start this scent exudes an almost ethereal brilliance.
Whiter than white aldehydes support sweet and soaring citruses to form a counter-intuitively robust opening that never departs the perfume through its stately but complex development.
This structure, so light and airy and yet so strong, is a work of engineering magic.
It is a Paxton’s Crystal Palace of perfume design, enabling all the contents of this olfactory exhibition to be viewed in clear and yet flattering light.
The floral accord which is the centrepiece of this aromatic expo, comprises chiefly of iris, rose and jasmine with other blossoms.
It is so beautifully blended that it could be perceived as a single translucent form.
But alongside it comes a darker object, shaped perhaps by an indolic quality to the flowers, or the bitterness of oakmoss, which is a presence throughout or even a horses’ hay and smokiness from the vetiver.
Wherever this deeper counter melody comes from it is welcome.
It creates an internal tension within the fragrance that takes it from the realms of a good perfume to a great one.
Caleche is an expertly simple song of spring clean freshness and summer flowers set in opposition to an aromatic and animalic choral accompaniment.
It is a ride through dangerous streets at the dead of night in a beautifully appointed carriage.
Both men and women may ride in this coach, but neither for very long, it only takes short journeys.
The Perfumed Dandy.