Louis XIV
1701 portrait of Louis XIV, King of France (1638-1715), painting by Hyacinthe Rigaud. DeAgostini/Getty Images

LOUIS IVX, known as the “sweetest smelling king of all” had bathed only a 3 times in his life as he superstitiously feared water spread diseases.  Louis found body hair to be a sign of virility for men and unsightly for women (he said he wanted to see what he was getting). He had horrendous oral hygiene as refused to use a toothpick as did others. He chewed on cloves that might have slightly improved his room consuming halitosis, but it mostly adhered to the enough-food-to-feed-a-starving-child wedged between his teeth.  In all his fashion-forward, opulent worldliness, this Jim Dandy required for his personal toilette was perfumed everything and soap and water nothing. Swabbed down with cloths (toiles) soaked in perfumed oils mixed with floral waters, spices and herbs, there were always a privileged few spectators to witness the heavily perfumed toiles swabbing  their supreme overlord with   more times than not, his   “happy ending”.   It was rumored during one of his famous hunting trips, he was accidentally handed a goblet of fresh water. The king spit it out and screamed, “Qu’est-ce que c’est que cette pisse? (What the fuck is this piss?!)  as he could not recall ever having tasted H2O. He had several indentured perfumers. One created scents to last for many hours in palace corridors. Another to formulate scents for his quarters and bed linens.  His top perfumer created color-coded scents of shorter duration that would not stain or remove the dyes of his opulent outfits. The monarch changed no less than 6 times a day and had a scent for every color and uniform. His yearly perfume expenditure was over a million dollars. He might have been one over the top sex fiend with sweaty greasy balding head,  a foul mouth with rotten teeth, malodorous armpits, and swamp ass, but his palace, his staff, his clothing and especially his wigs always smelled like heaven; a summer garden, cool moss and ferns, soft fallen snow, fresh baked bread, a newborn baby’s downy head and basket full of puppies. It was said that ole’ Louis’s court, not so opposed to bathing and tooth picking, would rub heavily perfumed ground spices and powders in their noses, above their lips and on a perfumed  handkerchiefs to dab their noses in order to balance any misfortune of being downwind from the “sweetest smelling king” on a hot summer’s day of activity.

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