Lady Catherine, a Frenchwoman who may have inspired the story, Beauty and the Beast, was just a regular 16th-century woman. Her future husband, Petrus Gonsalvus, had been treated like an animal his whole life because of his condition, which causes an abnormal amount of hair to grow on the body. This condition is extremely rare, and Petrus Gonsalvus had the bad luck of having it. Petrus was sent to France as a present for King Henry II of France, who had just recently been crowned King of France.

His wife, Catherine de’ Medici, thought it would be great fun to marry the beautiful Lady Catherine to Petrus Gonsalvus. Lady Catherine was not told who her new husband was to be, so imagine her shock on her wedding day when she saw who she was marrying—a hairy man that the court regarded as less than human. Despite what Lady Catherine must have thought, the marriage went ahead. One couldn’t go against the Queen’s wishes, after all.

Despite his appearance, Petrus was very well educated, so Catherine must have quickly realized that she hadn’t married an animal. Catherine and Petrus were married for many decades and had several children, so maybe they had a happy marriage. Perhaps the answer to that question can be found in the portrait of Catherine and Petrus, where Catherine is shown with a hand on Petrus’s shoulder, which might be showing their love and respect for each other. They had seven children, four were born with their father’s condition. Catherine and Petrus’s marriage may have been what inspired Beauty and the Beast, though Petrus was never cursed, and this non-existent curse was never lifted.

Even though the Beast was now married to Beauty, European royals didn’t stop treating Petrus and his family horribly. The Gonsalvus family had to travel around Europe and stay at various courts, just so that the nobility there could marvel at them. It didn’t help that Petrus now had four children with his condition, who grew up just the way he did—being oohed and aahed at as if they were animals.

Petrus’s hairier children were all painted, always wearing expensive clothes, but the ones without his condition weren’t. The Gonsalvus family settled in Parma, where the Duke continued treating them like animals. Not much is known about what became of them.

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