They met in 1935 in the city of Orleans, France. Pierre Chevallier was a promising young medical student at Orleans Hospital where Yvonne Rousseau worked as a midwife.
Theirs was an instant and passionate attraction that overcame their immense social inequalities. He was from an old and distinguished family. She was raised on a peasant farm.
Yvonne's love and passion for Pierre would never waiver during their time together. Unfortunately over time her feelings would no longer be reciprocated and would bring forth the tragic consequences that would forever change their lives.
Four years later the two were married and their first son, Mathieu was born in 1940 during the era of Adolf Hitler and the invasion of France.
Pierre joined the French resistance and quickly rose to become a leading figure. He received the French Legion d'Honneur and Croix de Guerre for his heroism during the war. After the war he was elected Mayor of Orleans and in 1945 Yvonne gave birth to the couples second son, Thugal.
Pierre threw himself into politics and spent more and more time in Paris while Yvonne was left behind in Orleans to care for their children.
Pierre was described as handsome, dashing and socially adept. Yvonne, on the other hand, was described as dull, witless, and socially unacceptable.
Pierre began to look on her with growing contempt and at one point told her, "you disgust me."
Yvonne was desperate to win back her husband's love. She read about art, literature and politics. She frequented fashionable beauty salons and bought more flattering clothes. All to no avail. She eventually turned to drugs and booze to provide the comfort that was denied her by Pierre.
In the spring of 1951, Mrs Chevallier received an anonymous letter suggesting her husband was having an affair.
As she searched Pierre's closet for evidence she found a love letter in the pocket of one of his suits. It read, "Without you life would have no beauty or meaning for me." The letter was signed "Jeannette."
In her heart Yvonne knew "Jeannette" was none other than her neighbor Jeanne Perreau, wife of Leon Perreau, owner of one of Orleans' most prestigious department stores.
Jeanne Perreau was beautiful, intelligent and ultra sophisticated. The sort of woman Pierre should have married.
Yvonne left the children in the care of a maid and boarded a train bound for Paris to confront Pierre. But she returned home utterly humiliated when she was turned away from the National Assembly by an usher who was under strict orders not to allow her admittance and Pierre refused to meet with her.
When she returned home she confronted Jeanne Perreau and engaged in a shouting match that brought no resolution to her dilemma.
Pierre eventually returned to Orleans to face his wife but refused to discuss his affair with her claiming it was a private matter and continued to treat her with contempt.
Yvonne tried to force Pierre to return her affections by attempting suicide. When that did not work she went to a police station and applied for a handgun license claiming she needed protection due to her husband's political prominence.
Once she obtained the permit she went to a gun shop and eventually purchased a Mab 7.65mm, a semiautomatic handgun, and ammunition.
In August of 1951, Pierre was appointed government minister for education, youth and athletics. While he was in his dressing room changing his clothes for a public appearance, Yvonne decided to make one last ditch effort to save their marriage.
Pierre's dismissal of her was brutal. He coldly explained to her that he no longer wished to have anything else to do with her and had another woman he wanted to marry.
She fled from the room and retrieved the gun from the linen closet where she hid it and returned to Pierre's dressing room.
She turned the gun on herself and threatened to kill herself if he tried to leave her for another woman. But Pierre mocked her, telling her to go ahead and shoot herself but wait until he left the room.
That was the final straw. With deadly precision she pointed the gun at Pierre and fired four shots, hitting him in the chest, forearm, thigh, and chin.
As she stood over him their oldest child, Mathieu burst into the room and saw his father lying on the floor. Yvonne calmly led him back downstairs and handed him over to the maid. She returned to Pierre's dressing room and shot him a fifth and final time in the back.
Minutes later she called the Orleans police station and spoke with Commissaire Gazano simply stating, "Please come here at once. My husband needs you urgently." She was patiently waiting in widow's weeds when the gendarmes arrived and arrested her.
Yvonne Chevallier went on trial November 5, 1952. In those days the French penal code included a love-triangle provision that absolved from punishment any man who committed homicide after finding his wife in the bed with another man. Albeit the roles were reversed, the Chevallier case was widely viewed throughout France as a crime-of-passion which fell under the provision.
When Jeanne Perreau was called to the witness stand it was clear that the sympathy in the courtroom rested solely with Yvonne. Her approach to the stand was accompanied by hissing from the gallery. She testified that the affair began in 1950 and continued up until the day Pierre was killed. They met in Paris two to three times a week. When asked if she was ashamed of the affair she proudly replied, "Not at all." She went on to state that even though she felt pity for Mrs. Chevallier, she had no intentions of ending the affair.
Before handing the case over to the jury, the presiding judge, M. Raymond Jadin gave Yvonne a fatherly lecture for failing to conquer her "animal passion" she felt for her husband. He said, "this passion overwhelmed your whole life, without any attempt on your part to control it. I understand your cavalier action, but do not condone it."
After deliberating for 45 minutes the jury returned with a verdict, "Not Guilty", much to the relief of the crowd that had gathered to show Yvonne their support.
Even though she had been absolved of the crime by the church, Yvonne could not rid herself of the overwhelming guilt she felt. So she devised her own form of penance by moving to French New Guinea with her sons where she worked as a volunteer nurse in a hospital for the poor until her death in the 1970's.