Fashion & Beauty / Who, What, Why

The Candles That Lit Marie Antoinette's Bedroom

We tell the story of Cire Trudon, a brand whose contemporary incarnation is even more fabulous than its remarkable heritage

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Illustration by Javier Sola

Who? Originally founded in 1643, Cire Trudon is a brand whose legacy is almost as remarkable as the products it now creates: in their time, the courts of Louis XVI and Napoleon – not to mention the Palace of Versailles – were lit by its pure white candles (in fact, according to Julien Pruvost, the brand's general manager, “King Louis the XVI, while in custody, would still receive deliveries of the wax royal we manufacture”.) However, it was not until 2007 that the incarnation we are familiar with today was conceived, offering some of the most remarkably scented candles around, each contained within extraordinarily beautiful glass vessels (the Christmas ones are lined with gold foil for optimum opulence). Truly, there are few activities as satisfyingly decadent as lighting one and settling in for an evening: you'll literally be using the same kinds of candles that once lit Marie Antoinette's bedroom.

What? “We brought fine fragrance to candles,” explains Pruvost of the brand's decision to evolve into the domain of scented wax – and it is true that Cire Trudon is one of the rare candlemakers to engage directly with perfumers as part of the production process to ensure optimum results. Its collaborations bear scents such as that of the polished parquet floors in Versailles' Hall of Mirrors (Solis Rex: it's dominantly cedarwood, eucalyptus and incense) and Napoleon's wartime camps (Empire: lavender, rosemary and juniper) – but also the more traditional scents you'd hope from such a house, like the orange blossom of Odalisque, or Spiritus Sancti, the altar candle scent of a church.

Then there are the periphery bits and pieces – the room sprays are incredible, and come in such pretty bottles that you'd never want to use them if they didn't smell just so wonderful. There are waxwork busts of the likes of Marie Antoinette, Napoleon and Benjamin Franklin, glass cloches to protect them, and scented cameo waxes that can be burned atop dishes. Rest assured that each incarnation is impeccably formed – the parameters are prototyped endlessly pre-production to ensure they are as perfect as a candle could possibly be. This makes sense, of course, when you consider that Cire Trudon was once making these pieces for families who could legitimately have their craftspeople beheaded if their work wasn't good enough.

Why? Because at this time of year, sales of candles skyrocket: not only does the enduring gloom of the short day present the perfect opportunity to light one, but what better gift for somebody who has everything? Rest assured that if they were good enough for Marie Antoinette, they'll be good enough to avoid New Year's re-gifting.

Or, even better, buy one for yourself and be done with it. The Christmas collection includes a candle named after the angel Gabriel which smells like glacé chestnuts – how could you not want that to scent the room as you watch Love Actually and eat Quality Street chocolates? We guarantee it will add an air of glamour to even the most prosaic of festive activities.

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