Catherine Howard, the fifth wife of Henry VIII, who was said to have had an illicit liaison during her visit to York in 1541, is the inspiration of a new perfume in Barley Hall as part of ‘Power & Glory: York in the Time of Henry VIII’.
The perfume, called ‘Décapitation’ features scents that would have been in use by the nobility in the mid-16th century, including strong tones of rose, lemon, violet, cherry and musk to create a sensual fragrance designed to make a virile Tudor male lose his head.
Barley Hall worked with historic researchers and specialist European perfumers especially for the new Henry VIII exhibition, in order to create a unique fragrance with a clear, innocent rose fragrance on first application, which fades to reveal a truly sensual fragrance as it mingles with the wearer’s own body chemistry.
The scent is designed to capture the essence of Catherine Howard, the second of Henry’s wives to be beheaded, after allegedly having an affair with Thomas Culpeper, one of Henry VIII’s trusted courtiers, who also lost his head after admitting to the affair.
The Components of the Fragrance
- Rose: Henry VIII described Catherine as his ‘rose without a thorn’, and it was the most fashionable perfume of the day
- Violet: An essential flower for any true femme fatale, in Tudor England, the violet represented death and bereavement
- Lemon: Lemons were more widely available in the late Tudor period, with some almanacs suggesting that the acid fruit symbolised a broken betrothal.
- White musk: This is the modern counterpart of deer musk, which was a common base in Tudor perfumes, and thought to be an aphrodisiac in Tudor times
- Cherry blossom: Representing star-crossed love – the perfect undertone for Catherine’s perfume.
The perfume is available to sample in Barley Hall’s latest exhibition ‘Power & Glory: York in the Time of Henry VIII’, alongside displays of dresses from major costume dramas, and a replica of Catherine Howard’s dress from the Heaver Castle collection.