From 1829 onwards, during this time of Eugene’s personal suffering, grief and illness, there was another aspect of stress and worry: the changing political climate of France which was turning against religion. His life would be significantly affected by this, and thus it is important to spend some time understanding the situation, and Eugene’s reaction to it. In order to do this, we need to look back on the life of Eugene as it was affected by the changing historical and political situation in France.
Born in 1782, Eugene was part of the nobility, with all the privileges associated with that class. His father, a highly-educated lawyer, was one of the leading citizens of the city. Yvon Beaudoin writes:
Charles Antoine de Mazenod, Lord of Saint Laurent and father of Eugene, was born at Aix on January 24, 1745. He earned a license in law on June 16, 1764. As an advocate to the parliament, in 1771, he was received as president of the Parliament with right to wear the round black velvet cap. February 3, 1778, he married Marie Rose Eugénie Joannis with whom he had three children: Charlotte Élisabeth Eugénie (1779-1784), Charles Joseph Eugène (1782-1861) and Charlotte Eugénie Antoinette (1785-1867).
“Charles Antoine…, being a humanist and an accomplished jurist, possessed a wealth of knowledge acquired from the study of the finest works of literature. He was the author of a complete set of works on the history of the States and Tribunals of Provence…” (LEFLON, Jean, Eugene de Mazenod, vol I, trans. Francis D. Flanagan, o.m.i., p. 32)
Charles Antoine emigrated to Italy in December of 1790 and did not return to France until the end of December 1817.
Rene Motte gives us the background:
Their house was on the main street, the Cours, and “it was in this house that Eugene’s father and his two uncles were born. And, in the following generation, Eugene and his two sisters, the eldest Charlotte Élisabeth Eugénie, who died at five years of age and the youngest, Charlotte Eugénie Antoinette. To care for this little group of people, there were twelve servants. Their way of life was that of the rich nobility prior to the Revolution, but from his very infancy, Eugene was subjected to the threat of the Revolution. For example, on December 14, 1790, he could see across from his house the bodies of two of his father’s friends, executed by the revolutionaries and hung from the street lamps.”