Lots of people ask why it is called "Parma" Violet.  Many myths surround the name but our research has lead us to believe that the suffix was added thanks to the Bourbon Parma family. 

 

Violets originated in Asia and were probably bought to Europe by the 16th Century Spanish and Portughese explorers.

 

They were among the first flowers to be used to extract perfume essence and by the end of the 16th century, Violet fragrance was extremely fashionable in the refined courts of Spain, Portugal and France.  The enormous quantity of Violets necessary to extract a few grams of extract meant that violet extract was so expensive that the perfume was a privilege only of the richest.

 

In 1731 Spain was ruled by Philip V and his second wife, Elisabeth Farnese. Elisabeth was the last descendant of the Farnese family, rulers of the small but highly influential court of Parma. In 1731 her eldest son inherited the Duchy becoming the first Bourbon Duke of Parma. He spent less than 2 years in Parma then new orders arrived from Spain to march on the conquest of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. Charles abandoned Parma for Naples taking with him the entire artistic collection of the Farnese family.

 

Charles – now  King of the Two Sicilies maintained the title Duke of Parma until 1748  when his brother Ferdinand came to live in the Duchy and took the title of Duke of Parma.

 

It is quite possible that in this period the first violets were imported to Naples by Charles from his native Spain.  This species of particularly fragrant violet, highly appreciated by the Italian perfumers, was given the name "Parma Violet". The mild climate in Naples was ideal for growing the violets and so the rich Naples court could now indulge in this luxury.  

 

The real story regarding Marie Louise’s love of violets is also steeped in mystery.  First child of the Austrian Emperor Francis I, second wife of Napoleon Bonaparte and then Duchess of Parma, violet fragrance was certainly a luxury she could afford.  Violet perfume certainly did have a special meaning for her.

Violets bought back happy childhood memories of her happiest days playing in the park full of delicate violets at the Palace of Schonbrun.  On her arrival in Paris - The official flower of the Bonaparte family  was the violet and it’s iconic use in the Court was therefore frequent.  Napoleon was even nicknamed “Capitan Violette”. When in exile – his supporters continued to wear a posy of violets in his honour.

We like to think that Marie Louise’s love of violets - was also her way of honouring the husband who had been forced on her. with who she then fell in love and from whom she was separated politically.

 

 

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