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.
Many writers appear to have been under the impression that one or both of these two Irish women were Catholics. Let me tell you here and now, the religion of Catherine Hayes and Lola Montez was Church of Ireland into which they were born and bred but at times they pretended otherwise. In parts of the world, Catholics were in the majority and it was best to appear to be of that faith.
Catherine Hayes helped Father Matthew, the temperance advocate, when she was in New York and gave a concert to raise money for the roof of a Catholic church in New Orleans. Lola Montez had to pretend to be a Spanish Catholic to become a Countess of Bavaria. Imagine an Irish protestant from a lower class background being able to achieve that status in a country which was then violently anti-protestant. She must have been a very good actress to fool everyone including the Jesuits. Neither Catherine nor Lola cared much about any faith.
In the 19c, the official religion in Ireland was the Protestant Church of Ireland and the ruling class belonged to it. There was bitter animosity between Catholics and Protestants which continues to the present day in some areas. A mature student at a local Adult Education Centre wrote some essays which have been published in a booklet. This is what she says about going to school in the 1950’s at the age of four.
“My oldest sister carried me to the school on the carrier on the back of the bicycle. I will always remember my sister ( name removed) leaving me at a neighbour’s gate. I would go through the neighbour’s yard. I never stopped to play with the children there. There were nine children in that family and they went to a different school. We were Church of Ireland and went to the Church of Ireland school.”
That’s an example of the deep divisions in Irish society which prevented even the children from mixing and perpetuated the hatred and suspicion which fueled the Northern Ireland troubles.
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).
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.
Ladies in order of appearance: 1. Auguste Strobl 1827 2. Sofie Friedericke, Archduchess of Austria 1832 3. Irene, Countess of Arco-Steppberg, formerly Marchesa Pallavi 4. Crescentia, Princess of Oettingen and Wallerstein 1833 5. Marchesa Marianna Florenzi 1831 6. Rosalie Julie Freifrau von Bonar circa 1840 7. Josepha Conti 1846 8. Lady Emily Milbanke 1844 9. Lola Montez 1847 10. Lady Jane Elizabeth Digby Ellenborough, later El Mezrab 11. Antonia Ott, née Wallinger and more…
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Continue reading Joseph Karl Stieler Schönheitengalerie
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.
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.
This was part of a program at the Autry Museum of Western History in 1998. Athene Mihalakis performs her interpretation of Lola Montez’s notorious Spider Dance. The little things she is stomping on are spiders. Piano: Dean Mora. Video shot by David Gerard and edited by Walter Nelson. http://walternelson.com
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Continue reading The Spider Dance 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.
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.