Pierre Terrail LeVieux, seigneur de Bayard, 1473-1524: Le Chevalier sans peur et sans reproche

“Without fear and without reproach.”

It’s one of those phrases that crops up in romantic literature,  all very Arthur and Camelot and such.   However medieval it may sound, the title didn’t really enter the language until his fans had to describe the sixteenth century knight and warrior de Bayard.  Not a lot of dragons by then- most fighting was over politics.

Bayard was a native of Dauphiné in south east France and a faithful subject of the king of France.  This was not necessarily a given at the time, when loyalty was fluid and power unpredictable. 

He was from a military family and he first honed his skills on horseback and tilting as a page for Louis de Luxembourg.  Presumably he worked on his wit and charm as well, features which seemed to follow him throughout his life.  Good looks were just an afterthought. Continue reading

Renato Bianco, ca 1500 – ?: Smell The Glove

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