Tracking Lola Montez in Paris

Believing, as I do, that an author should do his own research so far as time and money permit, I went once again to Paris on the trail of the truth about Lola Montez in Paris.  The results surpassed my expectations and I’m confident now that Lola prepared to seduce King Ludwig I while she was still in Paris in 1846. Portraits show that she transformed herself from an auburn haired Irish beauty to a black haired Spanish grandee’s daughter. She had some  knowedge of Spanish and Catholicism from her earlier stay in Spain. In Munich, she had to pretend to be a Spanish Catholic and she played her part well. By 1846, she already had a Ph.D in seduction (if such a thing existed). Once she got access to old Ludwig, it didn’t take her long to make him believe that she was the best mistress he could find.

Lola Montez must have been a great actress if she really made the Court of King Ludwig believe that she was indeed a Spanish noblewoman and a Catholic when she was neither . Her command of Spanish was poor but so was Ludwig’s. The Jesuits, whom she accused of persecuting her, may have had their suspicions.

If Lola had not engaged in politics and settled down quietly, she might have enjoyed a long and luxurious life as the Duchess of Landsfeldt and the King’s favourite.  There was unending jealousy amongst those at Court who sought to promote their own ends. Lola Montez was inexperienced in dealing with this constant intrigue and pushed too hard to get her views paramount. Inevitably, she had to go sooner or later or be killed.

Even after she was forced to flee from Munich, she continued to enjoy a substantial allowance from Ludwig. Her  marriage in London, first in a Catholic church and later  that same day in a Church of England ceremony, caused Ludwig to doubt her Catholicism and he stopped her allowance on the grounds that her new husband had enough money to support her.

Perils of Publishing

The perils of publishing  is a little humourous article inspired by a question on a forum and ‘Up Pompeii’. Actually it is also meant to highlight the exceptional and non-commercial returns policy in the industry and the plight of writers who often receive least for their creative effort.

Sinister,dexter,sinister,dexter.  A funny thing happened on my way to the forum this morning. I met Youngus Foolius, the scribe. He was pushing a cart piled high with odes to the Gods. “Wherefore art thou bound, Youngus”  said I. “ To deliver these odes to my friends and the booksellers who have all promised to buy them”  said he. I wished him good luck.

In the forum, we had a lengthy debate on whether the Vestal Virgins gave good value for money. I knew one who certainly did and I daresay one or two other Senators and especially Caesar himself could give an informed opinion.  Prudently, we kept our intimate secrets to ourselves and the Virgins kept their positions.

Wending my weary way home, Youngus Foolius nearly ran me over with his now empty cart.  “Hail Youngus, you seem to have had a good day” said I.  “Yes and no” Senator said he.  I wondered how he’d learned to talk like a Senator and bid him explain.  “Well, Sir I sold all my odes bar two that I donated to the Temple of Hymen but no one has paid me yet. They say I must wait until the Christians eat the lions in the Circus Maximus. The worst thing is that the Tax Collector saw me and he wants Caesar’s share tomorrow and I only have five cistercii”

“Don’t fret, Youngus,  odes are books and, according to the Senate law of  Junius 30, they can be returned for full credit within six months. Therefore, you may make a loss and owe no tax at all. That being so, you can defer payment now and pay more with interest later if you manage to make a profit.”    “Thank you, Senator, said he. I’ll write an ode to you”  I considered charging him five cistercii for my advice but my kinder nature prevailed and I bid him farewell.

Sinister, dexter, sinister…

Lola Montez Black or Red-Haired Beauty?

The mystery surrounding the red-haired version of the Lola Montez painting in the Gallery of Beauties at Nymphenburg intensifies. Here at Famous Biography, only the truth is good enough and so we’re trying to track down the origin of the red haired Lola. It appears on Wikimedia Commons and is being offered for sale by a US based art reproduction website.

Is the red haired version truly the one which Ludwig rejected or is it just a fake? We need readers help in tracking down the truth on this. Please get in touch if you can find any references to Lola’s hair colour in a book or a picture of her with red hair (other than those mentioned above).

Lola Montez Painting at Nymphenburg

The  Lola Montez  Painting  at Nymphenburg  is one of the 30 or so ‘Beauties’ that King Ludwig commissioned his artist Stieler to paint. If you watch the YouTube video, you will notice that the majority of the women are wearing rich looking dresses showing their bare shoulders, arms and some cleavage at least as well as pearls and other jewellery. It appears to have been Stieler’s style but Lola Montez is dowdy by comparison. Her plain black dress is buttoned to the neck and she only has a little brooch resembling a cross.

If I knew nothing about these women and was given a choice of any one purely based on the paintings, I wouldn’t choose Lola. She looks uninteresting compared to most of the others and not at all like her character. I think this was the King’s intention as he wanted to recreate her as a moral person with the past behind her. Only a few months earlier, she’d been told to leave Baden-Baden because of her licentious behaviour. It’s said she demonstrated her agility by putting her leg on a man’s shoulder. She probably wasn’t wearing any underwear at the time either.

According to Bruce Seymour, whose work I respect most in the matter of Lola’s life story, Stieler’s original portrait of Lola didn’t please Ludwig and he ordered him to do it again. My guess is that this original was more like all the other beauties and perhaps even more revealing. It seems this first painting was lost but does it still exist underneath the present one? Artists were well known to re-use their canvas since it was expensive. There are x-ray techniques available today which could determine if another painting is still there under the paint layers.

Finally, there is a portrait of Lola by Camille Rocqueplan dated about a year earlier in Paris and now that would be more likely to be a man’s first choice. I have been privileged to be allowed to  photograph the original watercolour which is kept in the research room at the Carnavalet Museum in Paris.

 

Book Research Tip

  When I found a Memoir of Catherine Hayes published by her agents, Messrs. Cramer & Beale of London, I thought now I can get the facts and eliminate all the silly stuff printed elsewhere. It turned out that all the other wrong short biographies of Miss Hayes had been largely based on this Cramer & Beale one. I won’t go into all it’s shortcomings here but let’s consider one major issue i.e. her education and early childhood in Limerick.

The traditional and, I have to say, accepted view to date is that she was a poor widow’s or deserted wife’s daughter with a natural talent for singing and that she was discovered by Bishop Knox as he was boating on the river Shannon. She was overheard as she sung in a bower in the Earl’s garden where she was helping her aunt who was a domestic servant there. They remarked on her fine trill.

No dount about her talent but the rest is humbug. Miss Hayes was never a servant, neither was her mother and Mrs. Daly was only an honorary aunt. The truth is that Catherine was brought up as an aristocrat’s daughter as was her sister Henrietta. They went to a young ladies academy where they learned Music, French, Italian, English and Elocution. Their mother was a rich man’s mistress whose husband had mysteriously disappeared and was never seen again.

The question now is: How do you, as a researcher, decide that all is not well with the generally accepted view of events? When you study life in Limerick in the 1820’s it should soon become apparent that there was great poverty, no schools for the poor, deserted wives could barely live never mind pay for an education. If they had the money, their children would be refused admission because only a gentleman’s daughters would qualify. By now, you should be seriously querying the published accounts of your subject’s early life and looking for alternative answers.

We have those alternative and correct answers provided for us by a close friend of the family. He details the education enjoyed by Catherine and Henrietta at a private academy and even describes their Italian and French teachers. There is later evidence in the form of letters and the employment of Henrietta that she knew French very well.

The moral here is that if the supposed facts don’t fit, you must look for alternatives which will. As a mistress, Mary Hayes didn’t work and was provided with everything she wanted. It’s doubtful if she lived in Patrick St. at all because her lover had many properties in the country which offered better privacy for his visits which had to be kept discreet.

 

 

 

Book Content – Does It Matter?

I said in a recent discussion that it’s the content which matters but is that true today? We have the situation in which bookshops are trying to keep afloat and the books they display prominently are those which will bring them the most revenue. This means the ones from publishers who give them a regular extra discount for putting their books on display in the window and/or inside and promote them in the press etc. It doesn’t matter if they are chick-lit, non-fiction or fiction masquerading as truth. So long as it sells, it’s manna from heaven.

At a recent meeting in Dublin, I heard that 9 in 10 of ‘celeb’ books fail but the 10th hits the big time and pays for the others. What does that say for content? At Famous Biography, we’d like to think that content is king and that books like our ‘Virtue and Vice’ will prove the point. There is no doubt that in Catherine Hayes and Lola Montez, we have great characters to work with.

Please comment.

Lola Montez Spider Dance – Famous Biography

Lola Montez travelled to Seville in Spain to learn dancing. She adapted flamenco to create her famous ‘Spider Dance” which she performed all over the world. Lola Montez Spider Dance  was a form of striptease in which she found rubber spiders in her clothes and threw them on the stage. Then she started to strip off layers of her clothing until she was topless and sometimes nude for a private show.

The video of  Lola Montez Spider Dance on this site now is not representative of Lola’s performance. It wouldn’t have attracted audiences even in the conservative 19th century. Lola’s dance was more like the ‘dance of the seven veils‘ which Salome did for Herod in return for the head of John the Baptist.

Lola’s 19c audiences loved it because they rarely saw women nude. Some men never saw their wives undressed so you can imagine she had quite an effect. The fact that she was a well educated and titled lady helped to give it a unique appeal after 1848.

Current Affairs of Lola Montez

Although she died almost 150 years ago, the legend of Lola Montez lives on in Munich where she became King Ludwig’s mistress and he made her the Countess de Landsfeldt. There is a cabaret act in Munich featuring Lola which is described on this German website which includes a topless photo of the dancer.

After her affair with the King ended , Lola went to London where she was married twice on the same day. Presumably, she was still pretending to be a Catholic so that Ludwig would continue her generous allowance. They married first at the French Chapel and went to St. George’s in the afternoon. Lola was already legally married and was charged with bigamy soon afterwards.

I also found that there is a new book “Sex with Kings” by Eleanor Herman which includes Lola Montez as one of the lovers.You can order that for light reading. There is also a German edition “Seks met de Koning”.

Lola Montez didn’t worry about seducing other women’s  husbands. This 1815 cartoon by Rowlandson reminded me of the incident in Australia when she was injured by an irate wife.

Rowland Cartoon

“Neighbourly Refreshment”

Famous Biography

The Famous Biography blog is about the lives of two internationally famous women, Catherine Hayes  and Lola Montez.They both travelled the world and earned fame and fortune. Lola Montez became a courtesan and erotic dancer as a result of circumstances and her extrovert character.

Catherine or Kate as she was popularly known in America and Australia was a lyrics lover and had many written specially for her. One in particular is extremely important in the context of her true lifeand that will be discussed in the new biography ‘Virtue and Vice’.

Catherine Hayes began her singing career in 1839 when she went to Dublin to study under Antonio Sapio. After three years, she returned to Limerick and persuaded the Bishop to underwrite her new dream of becoming an opera star despite the Church’s opposition to stage careers for women.She left Dublin for Paris in October 1842 to study under Manuel Garcia.

Rosenberg tells us in some detail of the evening he spent with Catherine and Mary Hayes at the home of Bowes and his wife ‘just off the Champs Elysee going towards the Arc de Triomphe’. Garcia was also there. After dinner, Rosenberg and Garcia accompanied the ladies home.They left them ‘at their door’ and proceeded past the Madeleine and along to Boulevard des Italiens.His original description of that meeting is important as it proves that Catherine had set up a household of her own in Paris and didn’t live with the Osborne family as others claim.

We don’t know much about Catherine’s life in Paris between October 1842 and April 1844 when she left for Milan.Garcia didn’t allow his pupils to sing in public but we now know that she did so on at least two occasions. Bishop Knox must have continued to support them as usual and was probably a regular visitor to their home. We know that he favoured life on the Continent and in France in particular and that he left Ireland in 1842 never to return to his See. He had a very high income from his Bishopric and his lands and could well afford to live where he choose.

In 1844, Lola Montez arrived and stayed at 24 Rue de la Victoire quite close to where Miss Hayes lived. At that time, Lola was Liszt’s mistress and he’d sent her on ahead to await him in Paris.She said she was there to improve her dancing and actually appeared at the famous Paris Opera dancing in “Le Bal de Don Juan” .Her numbers were entitled ‘Lolita’ and ‘Los Boleros de Cadiz’. She was onlyallowed to give a couple of performances because there were protests from some who said she was below the standard they expected at the Opera.

Life in Paris was anything but dull for the artistic set. Lola got her share of publicity by her usual outrageous behaviour but Kate kept a low profile. Her mother’s presence will have helped her to remain discreet. In 1844, Garcia and Kate appear to annoy each other more than usual and she decides to complete her studies in Milan. She was a difficult pupil at times. Witness the incident at Bowes’ house when she insisted on singing an Irish ballad much to Garcia’s disgust.  No doubt there were other occasions when she kicked over the traces apart from the concerts mentioned above.

Note: Catherine Hayes made a fortune only to lose most of it on her death bed to criminals who forged her will.