A deep purplish blue derived from cobalt, mazarine falls somewhere between hyacinth, sapphire and cyanine. Historically, this distinctive colour has been associated with textiles (particularly academic dress) and ceramics, but how or why it came to be known as mazarine is up for debate with two etymologies often cited.
The first and most widely accepted suggests the colour’s moniker is derived from the Italian-born Cardinal Mazarin (1602-61), who succeeded Cardinal Richelieu to become the chief minister of France under Louis XIII from 1643-61. His wide-ranging eponymous legacy includes the Mazarin Cut Diamond, which he’s credited with having discovered, and Bibliothèque Mazarine, France’s oldest public library which his personal book collection formed the basis of, but quite how he is connected to this very blue hue is a bit of a blur.
TOAST Pleated Shirt Dress £115 - Mazarine.
The second school of thought doesn’t stray too far and suggests that the appellation originates from Hortense Mancini, Duchess Mazarin (1645-99), the favourite niece of Cardinal Mazarin and a mistress of Charles II. Born in Rome, she lived in England but found fame in the court of King Louis XIV, along with her four sisters and two cousins, who together became known as the Mazarinettes. This particular shade of blue is said to have been Hortense’s favourite and it’s understood Charles II even changed the colour of the ribbon and garter bestowed upon the knights of St George from sky blue to what is now known as mazarine as a compliment to her.
The colour’s ties to these historic figures is the reason you’ll often see it capitalised, but a search for ‘mazarine blue’ on the internet is more likely to yield information on the elegant Polyommatus semiargus butterfly than either the Cardinal or his niece. This meadow-loving species unfortunately became extinct in Britain in approximately 1901, but the glorious colour of its wings continues to inspire. A key shade for Autumn/Winter 2015, happily you won’t need to look far to find it.
Words by Rachel Ward
Lead image - Floral Print Dress £125 - Mazarine / delphinium / dove / black.