A French Sensation
It is impossible to overstate the sensation the slaying caused.
The story was front-page news across
Initially, most Frenchmen were angry that their war hero had been taken from them. News accounts characterized Yvonne Chevallier as an uncouth hick who was outmatched culturally and intellectually by the young statesman. Who could blame
Yvonne had not mentioned the love triangle motive in her first interview with police. But she later confessed that she had been jealous of her husbands affection for the redhead.
Gradually, public opinion began to shift as the details of Chevalliers brazen affair and cold, cruel treatment of his wife began to leak out.
Jean Laborde, a reporter with France-Soir, cozied up to Yvonnes family and was given access to her letters. Again and again, she had sworn eternal love for
Americans living in
I never ceased to be intrigued by the way crimes passionnels spellbound the French, wrote journalist Stanley Karnow in Paris in the Fifties. They worshipped reason and cherished moderation as the traits that made humans superior to animals. But they would drool over the sight of wives, husbands, mistresses and loves enmeshed in sordid imbroglios, as though these tragedies were real-life theater.
In his memoir, A Good Life, Bradlee described the Chevallier case as "one of the great French cultural events, a crime passionel."
Yvonne Chevallier was accused of murder and confined to jail for more than a year while awaiting trial. The proceedings were moved to Reims, 150 miles northeast of
By the time the trial began, on November 5, 1952, no detailreal or imagined--of the lives, relationships and affairs of the principals involved had gone unreported.
Karnow wrote, As her trial approached, the French press plunged into a feeding frenzy. Reporters, psychologists, sociologists, criminologists and other commentators advanced an array of theses on the Chevalliers relationship. Characteristically, in class-conscious
The French penal code in those days included a love-triangle provision that was a vestige of the Napoleonic era. It absolved from punishment any man who committed homicide after finding his wife in bed with another man.
The Chevallier case was widely viewed as a clear-cut--albeit gender-reversed--example of the crime-of-passion provision.