From humble beginnings, via a Royal seal of approval, to its present day celebrity status, Pommade Divine has certainly passed the test of time. The perfect ‘cure-all’, this soothing natural remedy has become legendary; from the court of Louis XIV to today’s red carpet, there is surely no beauty must-have with such a fascinating story…
It all began in France in the 1500s when monks began using a natural Balm, made mainly from Crab Apples, to heal inflammations and skin infections. ‘Pommade’ comes from the Latin for crab apple and the word ‘Divine’ was added because the ingredients came from monastic gardens. Pommade Divine soon spread across the whole of Europe.
Back in France, Marie-Antoinette’s great-grandmother was busy writing letters from the court to her friends extolling its virtues: “You won’t believe, dear Louise, what a good thing this Pommade Divine is. I am sending you a box, so that you can carry it with you at all times. Another thing this Pommade is good for: if you have burned yourself badly with sealing wax and treat it immediately with the Pommade, it reduces the pain. I don’t know how one could not like the smell of Pommade Divine…”
The first British mention came in the London Chronicle in 1767. ‘It is a never-failing remedy for a bruise, pinch, swelled face, stiff neck, sore breasts, burns, scalds, sprains, swellings, etc. Its fragrant smell makes it preferable to all other ointments which are offensive to delicate people.’
It soon became a staple household product in Britain. Farmers would make it at home and store it in earthenware pots to rub into dry hands in the winter, and sunburn and insect bites in the summer. The aristocracy would pick up their supply of Pommade Divine from apothecaries. In fact, it became so de rigueur that many of London’s apothecaries took to newspapers to claim ownership rights.
The Pommade Divine that emerged victorious was by Butlers and Co., a chemists located at No.4 Cheapside in the City of London and whose recipe is still used today. It contained ingredients from the Far East including Benzoin, Liquidambar, Cinnamon, Nutmeg and Clove which made their formula superior in quality. In 1867 it earned the royal seal of approval as Butler & Co. became official chemists to the Royal family and theirs soon became the only Pommade Divine available.
It was a staple in every nursery and was so popular in the Edwardian era that it was known as Nanny’s Magic Ointment, with the late Duchess of Devonshire Deborah Mitford once saying that a sniff of Pommade Divine transported her ‘straight back to the nursery’.During the war years Pommade Divine was sent to the front as a salve for soldiers and was shipped all over the British Empire. However the family business was sold after World War II to a large public company and sales declined through lack of promotion. By the late 1980s, the decision was taken to cease production, and Pommade Divine was no longer available.
But in 1987, thanks to the determination of two visionary British women – Ania Macadam, and her business partner Diana Heimann – Pommade Divine was ‘saved’ for the nation.
Ania, with her beauty marketing background, was interested in its beauty applications – as a Lip balm, cuticle softener, flyaway-tamer… as a Face mask, or as a foot and hand treatment.
Diana had used and loved Pommade Divine when her three sons were babies, but when her son Charlie was seven, she popped to Boots one day to replenish supplies only to discover that Pommade Divine had gone from the shelves. ‘I was bereft,’ she remembers. So bereft, in fact, that she rang her banker husband David about it, who promptly bought the company for her as a gift!
Which brings us to the Pommade Divine you can buy today. Packed with history and renewed love, it has earned many high-profile celebrity endorsements. Let’s hope it goes on soothing dry skins, frazzled nerves (and the odd sealing wax burn) for another 300 years!