In her later years, Berthe Antonine Mayné would tell her nephew a fascinating and romantic story. She spun a tale of wealthy beaus and sinking ships. Mayné claimed that she had once been the lover of a millionaire and that she had taken a trip with him on the ill-fated RMS Titanic. Given the unlikeliness of her tale, it’s perhaps no surprise that her nephew struggled to believe what his old aunt was saying. As fate would have it, though, the unlikely truths of her tale would one day be wrenched from the depths and into the light.
The bright lights of Brussels
Mayné’s story begins in Ixelles — one of the constituent parts of Brussels — where she was born back in 1887. And with her childhood fading into the past, she began to grace the Belgian capital’s stages as a nightclub singer under the stage name Bella Vielly. Unlike many women seeking fame whose faces were lost to the nameless sea of aspiring starlets, Mayné was starting to reap the rewards from her craft.
Hedonism at its finest
So much so, in fact, that her stage skills were gaining traction and picking up media attention. The Dutch-language newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws once wrote, Mayné was “well known in Brussels in circles of pleasure.” In addition, she was apparently “often seen in the company of people who like to wine and dine and enjoy life.” It made sense, then, that she ultimately caught the eye of the dashing Fernand de Villiers.
Their fate was sealed
But while de Villiers reportedly embarked on a relationship with Mayné for a period, it seems that their brief liaison didn’t lead to anything more permanent. Their frivolous dalliance wasn't to last, as Villiers was soon called back to more serious pursuits. A soldier by profession, he was finally decamped to the Belgian Congo as a member of the French Foreign Legion. In the end, then, Mayné's romantic fate was sealed, and she went on to find a new love.
The start of something big
One day late in 1911, Mayné would have her first encounter with Quigg Edmond Baxter. The day started as any other, but while she was singing in a café, the eligible Baxter swooped in and whisked her off her feet. From that very first meeting, the connection must have been palpable since their introduction led quickly to a whirlwind romance. Yes, love began to grow between the Belgian songstress and her new Canadian beau.