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The Beauty and The Beast

Or how can a miraculous life go so wrong.

By Rene Volpi Published 6 months ago Updated 6 months ago 5 min read
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Pedro González (Petrus Gonsalvus) and His Wife, Catherine (1575–1580) painting on high resolution by Joris Hoefnagel. Original from The National Gallery of Art. Digitally enhanced by rawpixel. CCO image. Public domain

~~o~~

Petrus loves his life in Tenerife. He enjoys his house in the country, he adores his wife and his 7 children are the apple of his eye.

His life is full of grace, and he’s the envy of everyone who knows him. In the spring and early summers, he takes them to the cliffs to spend time that feels more like a dream than anything else.

The ocean views were spectacular and they stayed past sunset on the coast before heading home.

The year is 1558. He will never forget it, for that was the year everything changed. How can such perfect life turn into a nightmare so quickly?

Within a month, all that he’d taken for granted disappeared like smoke in the high winds.

Petrus Gonsalvus is a freak now. His face, body, and feet are covered with hair. He's performing for the courts in France at the command of Catherine de Medici, widow of Henri II and entirely acting at her whim.

They are The Beauty and The Beast.

~o~

At a different time…

The little one giggled about everything to the parents' delight. Chubby rosy cheeks, he was the most spoiled one. One would think she knew but she didn't. She was only 15 months old. Four of the seven children had the disease and unfortunately for them, the French royals eventually asked for them as well.

It could have been worse, one could argue. They could've been tortured or killed, or worse, burned at the stake.

None of the children asked for such fate but they never turned against their parents. They had a calm demeanor and exteriorly, at least, didn't show any rancor or blame. Not even against the normal siblings. All was well in their world and they did show reverence and respect to their parents at all times, without exception.

That changed when they were separated. Changed even more when they became the highest curiosity of the land.

The mother, Catherine was spared but they crushed her heart. All she has now are the memories. All she has left is her mother's love.

Pedro, his real name before the king changed it, was resigned to his fate and took as much advantage as he could.

Thankfully, the king--before he died in battle--had granted him the right to learn what he wished and provided academics to tutor him in three languages.

But when he died, Catherine de Medici, the now Queen of France, made the decision to use them for entertainment and even had Pedro as a servant to the court, just like his wife would be.

The queen would have his wife, also named Catherine, serve tea and biscuits to the court's guests. A mistake that she would eventually realize, but way too late.

She was devastated by watching her beloved husband being reduced to no more than a curiosity but what incensed her the most was to listen to their contemptuous laughter filled with mockery and derision.

Their cynicism was such that they made sure Petrus heard their vitriolic comments every time he came around.

She felt a dagger slashing her flesh; she felt like dying but at the same time like she was about to explode.

The plan was simple. Everyone knew her and liked her in the kitchen but there was one particular maid, Rose, a senior cook who understood what she was enduring. The Queen and guests also picked and bullied her mentally handicapped son. A kind soul who didn't know how to cause harm.

His name was Jean François and one day, when everybody was present for an afternoon of tea and live music, a bird had the bad luck to fly in the palace and right into the chamber where they all were.

Jean François saw the panicked bird trying desperately to find its way out, only to make itself more anxious, crashing into paintings that perhaps thought resembled the outdoors.

The poor man foolishly gave chase and clumsily crashed into furniture to the delight of the nobles who by now were excitingly clapping with delight at every attempt given.

Rose, noticing the uproar, stepped outside the kitchen only to see how insensitive and cruel these people were and without second thoughts, rushed to take his son away, much to the dismal disapproval of the Queen and her guests, who saw their entertainment curtailed by a mother's care for her child.

So, Catherine didn't have to convince her when she broke the news of the plan to her. Together united for a common cause, they put their methodical plan in motion.

They waited until a big party was announced, with the added benefit of several royals known for their cruelty and barbarism. The timing was perfect. They couldn't ask for a better opportunity than that one.

Catherine and her now partner in crime wasted no time in putting things together.

Of the 158 invited guests of honor which included barons, counts, duchesses, and princes from different nations, only five survived the poisoning. Catherine de Medici, the Queen of France wasn't among them.

After a long investigation of the cause of the incident, it was determined that innocuous and accidental food poisoning was the cause. Five physicians concurred. They had to, for any other cause, such a conspiracy would have been disastrous for France, even though there were some suspicions in their midst.

It wasn't long after such an incident that Petrus, Catherine, and all four sons were released from their duties at the courts and free to do as they pleased.

Many times during their captivity, they'd reminisce of their wonderful old days back home and now that could become a reality, once again.

It was in the Spring of the year 1581 when they all embarked back for those long exquisite days at their cottage by the cliffs of Tenerife.

Home, peace, and freedom for the man whose future looked all but destroyed.

All reunited, they wrote a diary, which they appropriately named: "The Beauty and The Beast."

…And they lived happily ever after.

~o~

By Samuele Giglio on Unsplash



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About the Creator

Rene Volpi

I'm from Italy and write every day. Being a storyteller by nature, I've entertained (and annoyed) people with my "expositions" since I was a child, showing everyone my primitive drawings, doodles, and poems. Still do! Leave me a comment :)

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