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17 March 2012

When the perfumer Francois Rance moved to Paris in 1795, the reasons were very probably economic. As a descendant within an affluent family of Grasse-based perfumers and glove makers (there's a road in Grasse, Rue Rance, named after the family), the business was probably finding that, along with other gantiers parfumeurs, trade had suddenly collapsed. The French revolution was in full swing and most of the Rance customer base, the ancient regime, had suddenly lost their heads (indeed, the loss of this aristocratic patronage was enough to bankrupt the entire town of Montpellier, which although now Grasse, up until then had been the perfumery epicentre within France).

Rance Family TreeMoving to Paris, Francois found his talent, as talent often is, never out of fashion. Favourable to the new regime, he quite quickly won the attention of Napoleon himself, who became so besotted with Francois' creations that he asked Francois for some lessons in his art, visiting Francois in his studio to learn some of the magic.

That bond of affiliation was to last several generations. Francois' son, Jean, created a fragrance dedicated to  Napoleon's daughter Helene, while Francois' grandson, Francois Alexandre continued the imperial connection with a scent created for Napoleon III's wife, Eugenie, with both the fragrance and its namesake launching modern perfumery as we know it (the partonage court of Napoleon III and Emperess Eugenie helped kickstart the French perfume industry anew. It hasn't looked back).

Jeanne Sandra Rance, the latest inheritor of the family business has revisited the family archives to recreate these wonderful scents, providing a fascinating insight into history and cultural heritage along the way, something we expect to see develop further in the coming year.

Your can view the perfume Francois Alexandre dedicated to Eugenie here,

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What the paper's say

Since discovering Woodforde & Co in Sidmouth, I know where to go to find my perfect perfume. This charming emporium is located in Church Street and is run by husband and wife, Jon and Jane Brewer, both of whom have an encyclopaedic knowledge and an enthusiastic passion for perfumery.

Devon Today