The Tragic Story Of The Real-Life “Beauty And The Beast”

The epic tale of the Beauty and the Beast dates back to the 1500s. Catherine and Petrus Gonsalvus were the real life Beauty and the Beast, whose story is remembered and retold regularly, this time thanks to Ranker.


Due to a condition, he was born with, “The beast”, Petrus has his faced covered with hair. Petrus had to recite Latin and to entertain the nobility where he was kept by the French royal court for years.

Although this story was an inspiration, it can’t be compared with the fictional one. Petrus was only 10 when he was kept in a cage and treated like an animal. An evil Queen tricked Lady Catherine to marry a wild man that she hadn’t even met.

The ending of the real-life Beauty and the Beast story was nothing like the fairytale “happily ever after” endings.


Photo: Walt Disney Studios

In the Disney story the Beauty, Belle is an intelligent woman who falls in love with a man who has been cursed to look like a beast but has a soft soul.

Like almost all of the other fairy tales, the story has a happy ending. At the end, the strong love breaks the curse and of course, they live happily ever after.

But, how would the real-life “beast” break the curse? He lived with his condition for the whole of his life.

The real-life “beast” was kept in a cage and shipped off as a present to a king.

Photo: Metropolitan Museum of Art/Wikimedia Commons/CC0

” The wild man”, Petrus Gonsalvus was born in 1537 on the Canary Islands. His hereditary condition made him look hairy. There were other stories of wild men who were considered more like animals than humans. Petrus Gonsalvus was only 10 years when he was locked in a cage and shipped off to France as a present to King Henry of France in 1547.

Considered as a savage, he was located in a dungeon at the French court.


Photo: Unknown/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

When he arrived in France he was locked in a dungeon for observation. The doctors concluded that he was not a wild and savage man but a boy who had soft thick hair on his face. His name got transformed from Pedro Gonzales to Petrus Gonsalvus.

Even though in the King’s eyes he was still a savage, he decided that Gonsalvus should be educated. The boy shocked everyone when he learned Latin and thanks to that he became an important guest at the court.

He was treated like a human pet


Photo: Agostino Carracci/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Petrus learned three languages and was allowed to eat cooked food and to dress like a nobleman. Also, the king reportedly took a liking to him which was a great honor then. Even though he wasn’t locked in a dungeon anymore, he was still considered a savage. Similarly, dwarves were kept in the court for entertainment. The portrait of the three members of King Henry’s court was called Hairy Harry, Mad Peter, and Tiny Amon and it was painted by Agostino Carracci.

The rare disorder caused excessive hair growth or hypertrichosis


Photo: Anonymous/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

He has the first recorded individual who had hypertrichosis. Because of this rare condition he had excessive hair growth on his body. There have only been 50 cases reported in history.

“Since the Middle Ages, approximately 50 individuals with congenital hypertrichosis have been described, and, according to the most recent estimates, approximately 34 cases are documented adequately and definitively in the literature” reported the dermatologist Sarah K. Taylor.

Queen Catherine de’ Medici thought that marrying off Petrus to a beautiful woman would be hilarious


Photo: Unknown/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

She ruled France, after King Henry’s death and she thought that arranging a marriage for “the savage” would be funny. So, she didn’t tell the bride about his condition.

The maiden named Catherine was the real-life “Beauty”.  The Queen was impatient to know how her and the ‘Beast’s children would look’.

The Beauty met the “Beast”, Petrus on their wedding day


Photo: Joris Hoefnagel /Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

The kings and queens would dictate weddings and the people couldn’t reject their arranged marriage. This time, the Queen had a little surprise for the bride. Her husband’s body was covered in hair.

Imagine Catherine’s shock when at the end of the aisle she found a wild man covered in hair. With time, she ended up being fond of and caring for Petrus. They were married for 40 years.

They had seven children. Four of them had hair like their father


Photo: Unknown/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

The first two children didn’t have the condition from which their father suffered. The Queen must have been disappointed at first, but the next two were born covered in hair.

Source: ranker

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