Eugene’s idyllic childhood world was swept away by the French Revolution in 1789. After his father opposed the revolution, the entire family was obliged to flee into exile in Italy. In 1790, a new painful period began for Eugene.
These were years of family instability, material scarcity and danger. The family was forced to flee successively to Turin, Venice, Naples and Palermo.
Eugene’s adolescence was impoverished. Deprived of friends of his own age, unable to continue an orderly academic program, he was also separated from his mother who divorced her husband in order to return and reclaim family property in France.
As I wrote in the Wikipedia article:
Eugene became a boarder at the College of Nobles in Turin (Piedmont), but a move to Venice meant the end to formal schooling. With their money running out, Eugene’s father was forced to seek various employments, none of which were successful. His mother and sister returned to France – eventually seeking a divorce so as to be able to regain their property that had been seized. Eugene was fortunate to be welcomed by the Zinelli family in Venice. One of their sons, the priest Bartolo Zinelli, took special care of Eugene and saw to his education in the well-provided family library where the young adolescent spent many hours each day. Don Bartolo was a major influence in the human, academic and spiritual development of Eugene.
Once again the French army chased the émigrés from Venice, forcing Eugene and his father and two uncles to seek refuge in Naples for less than a year, and finally to flee to Palermo in Sicily. Here Eugene was invited to become part of the household of the Duke and Duchess of Cannizaro as a companion to their two sons. Being part of the high society of Sicily became the opportunity for Eugene to rediscover his noble origins and to live a lavish style of life. He took to himself the title of ‘Comte’ (“Count”) de Mazenod, did all the courtly things, and dreamed of a bright future.