Canadian Stories

Berthe Mayné

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berthe.jpgBerthe Mayné was a very beautiful young woman, with a lovely singing voice. She was born into a poor working class, Catholic family. Her father was a steel worker and she had four sisters and two brothers, but she longed for the finer things in life. She became a professional singer, performing in the "cafés chantants" in Brussels. She was well looked after by the powerful and wealthy men she met. Her family did not approve of her lifestyle.,/p>

Quigg Baxter saw her singing, most likely at the Hotel Metropole in Bussels. Berthe's family believes that Quigg and Berthe fell in love, that he proposed to her and she then agreed to accompany him to Canada. They also think that she might have been pregnant, but no researcher has been able to verify this claim.

Quigg's mother and sister brought Berthe with them to Montreal, but she didn't stay long. She raised money through friends and returned to Europe to restart her singing career. She sang in Paris under the stage name Bella Vielly. She told her family about her adventures but few believed her. When they checked to see if her name was on the survivors lists, it was not. This is because she was travelling under her stage name Berthe de Villiers. She ended up on lists of French passengers, rather than Belgian.

It wasn't until her death in 1962 that a box was found with letters and photos that included images of Quigg and ferry boats on the Saguenay River. Proof that she had been in Canada. A journalist named Herman de Wulf who was researching the Belgian passengers on the Titanic for a story for the 50th anniversary of the sinking, determined that the passenger named Berthe de Villiers was in fact not French, but Belgian. He was able to find her sister who was still alive and began piecing the story together. The last house that she lived in with her younger lover is still intake in a suburb of Brussels.

Betty Duchatel was always very curious about her elegant great aunt. She lived in grand houses, never seemed to work, she was always well dressed. Thierry Cournet heard the stories about Berthe from her niece, his wife's grand-mother. Alan Hustak argues that "If Hollywood producer James Cameron had wanted to create a real-life, ill-fated shipboard romance when he made his epic 1998 blockbuster, Titanic, the affair between twenty-four-year-old Quigg Baxter and a Belgian courtesan, Berthe Antoine Mayné, had the makings of a quintessential love story."

Read the The Real Canadian Love Story of the Titanic by CBC Live.

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