Quoted directly from the official Guerlain website:
Originally Posted by hirch_duckfinder
Inspired by the beauty and elegance of the Empress Eugénie [wife of Napoleon III], Pierre François-Pascal Guerlain [founder of the house of Guerlain] created EAU DE COLOGNE IMPERIAL in her honour. Seduced by his refined EAU, the Empress conferred upon Guerlain the title of Her Majesty’s Official Perfumer, the very pinnacle of imperial ranking. Guerlain, I believe, also created fragrances for other European houses and even bespoke fragrances for some individual royal personages.
Floris, the oldest English perfume house in existence (begun in 1730), was granted its first Royal Warrant in 1820, and since then has held no less than sixteen royal warrants from the British monarchy. Currently, it holds two royal warrants: as the official perfumer of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and as the official supplier of toiletries to the Prince of Wales.
Indeed, the very first customers of the purveyors of perfumed products were the aristocracy. Modern perfumery has it origins in scented gloves created for the aristocracy of Europe in the 1500s based on the need to give the leather a more agreeable smell but more increasingly as a means of staving off the bad smells rampant in European cities of the time. Gloves were usually worn or carried to be sniffed when one come into contact with noisome odors. Specifically, Catherine de Medici introduced the practice of wearing and also carrying scented gloves when she came to France in 1533 to marry the then Duke of Orleans, who was later to become Henry II of France. The practice of wearing and carrying scented gloves was adopted wholesale by the British aristocracy, with Queen Elizabeth I its greatest adherent.
Grasse, for example, began as a center which tanned leather, and then turned into a center which concerned itself with the perfuming of leather gloves and even eventually become of the world’s great centers for the production and processing of quality natural perfume ingredients. Perfumers in the sixteenth and seventeenth century were almost always members of the glovers guilds. The current niche company Maître Parfumeur et Gantier (translated as Master Perfumer and Glover), in fact, carries on this dual tradition by producing both fragrances and gloves.
Whatever its current trajectory, perfumery has always been and much of it--particularly historical French houses--continues to be intimately connected with the aristocracy, aristocratic traditions, and aristocratic values. I am sure there have always been middle class buyers of fragrances and in large numbers, but that's not the whole story.