Eugenie-Maire Pascaline Feneglio was born at Toulon on Easter Sunday, April 1, 1866. Her family life was miserable, and was to shatter calamitously. Her father a depressive with a temper, her mother tried to placate; for years, together with her older brother, the girl lived in dread. The mounting misery erupted on another Sunday—March 6, 1884—in what would be a deadly climax.Share
All day a stream of invective had rained down upon Eve’s mother. By late afternoon, the children were growing ever more alarmed for her safety. In the end their instincts proved right, as, after a crack of a pistol, they saw her lying mortally wounded upon the floor. As Eve stared in disbelief at the bloodied face of her mother, an altogether new fear suddenly gripped her. She was right to be frightened, for, as she turned, she was staring down the barrel of a pistol now pointing directly at her. A shot discharged, ricocheting off the wall as its intended target dived for cover. That was not to be the end of the blood lust, however, as, on that accursed Sabbath, a demon was loosed, and soon after another shot rang out. This time it found its target, and her father lay dead. The two children ran from the house, with her brother never seen again. On that tragic March evening, with her childhood now ended, yet barely a woman, Eve Lavalliere was left to face the world alone.
The next years can be summed up as follows: drab jobs in provincial obscurity fueling a longing for the Paris stage; an increasingly eye-catching face combined with an ever growing vivacity, all enveloped with a will of iron matched only by one burning ambition: to “escape.” And escape she did; along the way, taking the stage name “Eve Lavalliere.” Thereafter, like some fairytale, all her wishes came true, but wishes are not prayers, and the realization of her dreams gradually turned to nightmare.
Playing before packed, adoring audiences, with even Crowned Heads bowing, the very world appeared to be at her feet. No one but she, however, knew of the shadows that grew increasingly darker as the stage lights dimed, and as the darkness descended so too did the demons that relentlessly tormented her.
Superficially, the truth appeared simple enough: by the turn of the century she was the toast of Paris and much of Europe. And yet, by then, she knew nothing but an aching emptiness, something that would persist for years. An incident in 1916 reveals its depths. After a performance in London to aid the war effort, and while the audience were still standing and applauding she left the stage and made straight for the banks of the river Thames with one intention: to drown herself.
As she stood watching the lights of the city playing on that dark river’s ever-onward course, she relented, but only just. Sadly, it had not been the first time such thoughts had driven her to the brink of annihilation. It would be the last, however. Less than a year later, an event occurred that was to change her life forever, and in the process the world would be shocked, and its overlord angered.
This tragic first act now closes as we move on to the strange second one. (Read more.)