The Real Couple Behind Disney’s Beauty And The Beast Had A Heart Breaking Ending
Beauty and the beast is a tale that is older than time, a magical story that has enchanted many for years and the recent live action film starring Emma Watson was all the craze. But ever wondered where the story came from? Or whether it was based on a true story?
Turns out it was! In 1740, French novelist Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve wrote La Belle et la Běte, her version of a folktale that has actually been around for about 4,000 years. Bearing only nominal resemblance to the Disney flick. But the story is based on a real couple that lived in the 1500’s.
The beast’s name was Petrus Gonsalvus, and he never wanted to be called a beast. But it was the year 1537 different looking people or “peculiarities” were a hot commodity in royal courts. As a result, at the age of 10, Gonsalvus and his own personal peculiarity from Spain to France were sent to King Henry II’s court. All because of his hair which was all over him.
Likened to being a real-life wolf-man, Gonsalvus the “monster” was a monster hit amongst curious noblemen and women. People awaited the reputed “man of the woods” to bare his teeth and reveal his savage side. But his true personality was the opposite of an angry beast.
Today, we know that such people covered with hair all over are affected by a condition called hypertrichosis.
The king who took a liking to the boy, decided to take on Gonsalvus as his little pet project. Giving him a wardrobe makeover and a quality education, the king groomed Gonsalvus to be a nobleman.
But to make him a complete noble man he needed a wife. When King Henry II died his wife Catherine de’Medici, who took over the throne after he died, made finding Gonsalvus a wife her the first thing to check off her list and set to mission. But she still saw him as a play thing as she also hoped to reproduce his genetic condition in his offspring.
She then went about looking for a wife without revealing a major part of his personality, his hairy body. After a thorough search, Catherine settled on a woman who shared her name — Catherine.
Catherine was clearly too shocked and was very bitter to find out that her husband was not what she imaged but beauty. Yet just like in the movie she fell in love with the beast.
The pair was married for 40 years and they produced seven children, three of whom were born with hypertrichosis, the same condition their father had. And as it was trendy in those days, Europe’s traveling sideshow fever they picked the children up and sent them as gifts to royal families, a fate that mimicked Gonsalvus’ own.
The Gonsalvus girls were also well educated, well respected members of court, but doomed to be separated from their parents. One daughter, Antonietta, was famously memorialized in a series of portraits.
After these tragedies, the fairy-tale couple settled in a secluded estate in Italy, where they lived a life that wasn’t documented.