The story goes that Renato was a foundling and raised by Dominican monks of Santa Maria Novella, where the brothers taught him how to distill herbs, presumably for medicinal purposes. The work was interesting enough, but he other requirement of the order probably less so, and when the master died (rumors of murder were whispered), Renato was looking for something a little less restrictive, a little more glamorous, than being a mere apothecary.
He got his first big break concocting a bespoke scent for Catherine de’Medici (1519-1589). She was all of fourteen.
She was also decidedly on the way up. Niece of a pope, daughter of phenomenal wealth, in 1533, she left Florence to wed Henri, second son of King Francis I of France (and eventually king himself), and since France at the time was a backward place nowhere near as civilized as Italy, young Catherine was obliged to bring some civilization with her. Continue reading