The “Queen of Hungary’s Water” or “L’eau de la Reine de Hongary”, created in 1370, was the world’s first distillable perfume, predating ‘Eau de Cologne’ almost by 5 centuries. It is still considered one of the most controversial beauty products in history, with many myths circulating it. Yet, the truth lying behind this legendary perfume has long been lost in the mists of time, merely leaving behind intriguing whispers of its past, secrets of who it was created for, and tales of the magical alchemists, and their recipe.
Although there are many claims on who brought this perfume into the hands of its first user; from a monk, to an alchemist or even a band of roaming gypsies; however, from our knowledge, it was created specifically for the spouse of Charles Robert of Hungary, Elisabeth de Pologne, the Queen of Hungary (1305-1380).
Commonly also referred to as the “Spirits of Rosemary”; the oldest surviving recipe reveals that the fragrance was basically a rosemary base, with thyme, macerated in wine spirit. Yet this blend of ingredients did not only combine to produce a perfume… in fact, “Hungary Water”, was considered a cure, beauty tonic water, bestowed with near-magical properties.
The early recipes, advise the user, in addition, to spraying the perfume onto one’s skin, to also drink the tonic, rub it onto the skin, bathe in it, and even inhale it, to obtain the most beneficial outcomes.
With Queen Elizabeth wearing this charmed potion almost every day, legends grew that as the first bearer of this perfume, it was so effective on her skin, on her appearance, mythically reversing her age, that at 70 years old, her hand was asked in marriage by the 25-year-old Grand Duke of Lithuania!
At the end of the XIII century, the recipe of this invaluable perfume had spread through Europe, where its popularity was well received and given dimension as a remedy, and even called on the recommendation of doctors, including, Arnaud de Villeneuve and Raymond Lulle in Montpellier.