1533: the 14 year old Caterina de' Medici betrothed to the Duke of Orléans, future king of France also 14 years old, introduces to the French court, thanks to her trusted perfumer Renato Bianco and the monks of Saint Maria Novella, the use of fragrances already largely used in Italian Courts.
If we had to establish a period in history in which fragrance emerged from the smoky fogs of medieval times - where it had been forgotten after the fasts of the Roman era - to become an essential element in the social cohabitation of the wealthiest classes, we could designate the era in which Caterina de' Medici established herself in the French Court.
It was casualness, or perhaps destiny, which allowed the French nobility to discover and passionately love an element that facilitated personal relationships, sweetened approaches and increased the prestige of whoever wore it. In a Court where exhibitionism, appearance and luxury were essential elements to maintain ones rank and on the other hand, the lack of hygiene, the odours coming from unwashed bodies and pestilential breath that often inhibited the attempts to climb the social staircase fragrance was the balm that opened the doors of success.
Caterina de' Medici originated from a city, Florence, where fragrances were regularly worn by ladies of rich lineage or noble surname, and almost all the convents of most greater urban centres in Italy had at least one monk alchemist devoted to the workmanship of herbs and the extraction of their essences. It was obvious for her, when in 1533 she set off to marry the future king of France, Henry of Orléans, to include in her procession, as well as pages, ladies in waiting, monks and papal guards, her own personal perfumer Renato Bianco, who discovered a refined society, that however exhaled a pestiferous odour. It was René le Fiorentin, as he was later named by the parisians, who set to work contributing to the birth of a myriad of new perfumers who opened shops all over Paris to serve a society greedy for perfumed essences.
Perhaps for the French Court it was a necessity (the moderate Italian climate induced people to bathe in tubs full of water and to rub their skin, and fragrant young Italian girls didn't require a daily sprinkling of fragrant liquids), or perhaps it was the sensibility of gallant men who revived and spread fragrance, attributing nobility and prestige to an element that Italians knew and treated as an ordinary cosmetic; in any case, the French took away from the Italians their leadership as perfumers, and for more than two centuries it almost became their exclusive.