Who first discovered the optimism of Essential Oils? That is a matter for the debate of historians but in a delicious turn of history, King Louis the XIV, from the House of de Bourbon, the King of pomp, grandeur, heavy velvet curtains, was known as the great "Sun King." Some of his descendants started the jewelry store, VanCleef & Arpels, on Fifth Avenue in NYC before it was known as "Fifth." Two twin brothers, Louis and James, helped get the jewels out of France during WWII - and I know this story from my great friend, James de Bourbon, one of the twin's sons.
Back to King Louis XIV - he truly brought France under the absolute rule of monarchy by requiring many of the errant nobles and aristocracy to live in the Palace at Versailles. He ruled with complete authority and his was a very disciplined and heavy rule - perhaps as his mother was an Austrian.
Louis XIV reigned for seventy-two years - the longest reign in European history. He was succeeded Louis XV who ushered out the dark, rigid rule and like a Spring breeze ushered in the Rococo Period along with the Essential Oil of Neroli. Neroli was named after the Princess Nerola - an Italian Princess. And, Neroli came not only into the court of Louis XV but through another Italian, Catherine de Medici who had been betrothed by her father, Lorenzo the Magnificent to Henry II, an astute political move that assured his Grand Duchy.
As Louis XV reigned he took his roving eye to Marquise de Pompadour, Jean Antoinette Poisson, who was said to have been extremely well educated and quite beautiful. She was careful to befriend Louis' wife, the Queen Marie and was known to have had a large influence on the King's reign both within the palace and without in affairs of state.
She was a major patron of the decorative arts such as porcelain and architecture but it was her support of the artisans and local farmers who produced the beloved essential oils that truly brought an explosion of perfumery and perfume-making to France.
She swept in an age of the same heady lightness the Essential Oil Neroli brings: balanced optimism, calm, grace, delicate laces, music, art, beautiful soft silks, and sweet gentle music played in court. The gardens wafted with the elegant fragrances of teas and perfumes as the ladies and gentlemen enjoyed frolicking in the grand gardens with their water fountains, flower beds, and clinking of ornamental china.
We really have her to thank for the real explosion of aromatherapy as an industry which truly brought fragrance to the place where it is today. And, France still, has an aromatherapy industry which is quite closely tied to its medical profession with all the respect that accords.