Napoleon Bonaparte always paid a real attention to his personal hygiene, preferring the ablutions with water to the coquetry of dandies and aristocrats. Disturbed by the overpowering perfumes, the Emperor never perfumed himself but made a particularly abundant consumption of Cologne.
If the Emperor’s toilet was centered around his superb Athenian, it also consisted of daily baths whose hot water filled with steam, in the manner of the Arab baths, the rooms devolved for this purpose. Madame de Rémusat (1780 – 1821), lady attached to Josephine de Beauharnais (1763 – 1814), tells in her Memoirs that the Emperor, once washed, “made such floods [of Eau de Cologne] on himself that he used up to 60 rolls per month “(the “rolls” being the name given to the flasks of Farina’s Eau Admirable).
Napoleon Bonaparte used every day about 3 bottles of these Cologne which contained about 75 ml of fragrance.
The French National Archives have thus found an invoice indicating that for the month of October 1808, 72 bottles of Eau de Cologne were ordered! Napoleon was indeed generously sprayed with Cologne after his ablutions and rubbed vigorously his whole body with a brush. He attributed to this habit – which he claimed to have brought back from the Orient (as perhaps his long hot baths) – his health and considered it to be most important. The story tells that on the eve of each decisive battle, he held at his desk one of the green flasks of Farina house. He attributed to the Cologne the same qualities usually given to coffee, and used to pour a few drops of Cologne on a handkerchief and then push it against his lips, then on his foreheads and temples.
This fantastic consumption of Cologne collided, during the exile of the Emperor, with the notorious and nevertheless natural absence of perfumer on this lost island in the middle of the Atlantic. Emmanuel de Las Cases (1766 – 1842), private secretary of Bonaparte at St. Helena, never fails to remind readers of his Memoirs the constancy and courage of the Emperor in facing adversity. In the case of this Cologne affair, he testifies of a “real privation” that it was for Bonaparte to miss it. This deprivation must have been very great for Las Cases to report to us in these terms. Such a privation that Bonaparte could not tolerate it any more and begged the Mameluck Ali to make him a Cologne, thus giving birth to the only olfactory memory we had today of Napoleon.