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.
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.
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.