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Lola Montez And King Ludwig Of Bavaria

Lola Montez! The name suggests dark eyes and abundant hair, lithe limbs

and a sinuous body, with twining hands and great eyes that gleam with

a sort of ebon splendor. One thinks of Spanish beauty as one hears the

name; and in truth Lola Montez justified the mental picture.

She was not altogether Spanish, yet the other elements that entered into

her mercurial nature heightened and vivified her Castilian traits.
r /> Her mother was a Spaniard--partly Moorish, however. Her father was an

Irishman. There you have it--the dreamy romance of Spain, the exotic

touch of the Orient, and the daring, unreasoning vivacity of the Celt.

This woman during the forty-three years of her life had adventures

innumerable, was widely known in Europe and America, and actually lost

one king his throne. Her maiden name was Marie Dolores Eliza Rosanna

Gilbert. Her father was a British officer, the son of an Irish knight,

Sir Edward Gilbert. Her mother had been a danseuse named Lola Oliver.

"Lola" is a diminutive of Dolores, and as "Lola" she became known to the


She lived at one time or another in nearly all the countries of Europe,

and likewise in India, America, and Australia. It would be impossible

to set down here all the sensations that she achieved. Let us select the

climax of her career and show how she overturned a kingdom, passing but

lightly over her early and her later years.

She was born in Limerick in 1818, but her father's parents cast off

their son and his young wife, the Spanish dancer. They went to India,

and in 1825 the father died, leaving his young widow without a

rupee; but she was quickly married again, this time to an officer of


The former danseuse became a very conventional person, a fit match for

her highly conventional husband; but the small daughter did not take

kindly to the proprieties of life. The Hindu servants taught her more

things than she should have known; and at one time her stepfather found

her performing the danse du ventre. It was the Moorish strain inherited

from her mother.

She was sent back to Europe, however, and had a sort of education in

Scotland and England, and finally in Paris, where she was detected in

an incipient flirtation with her music-master. There were other persons

hanging about her from her fifteenth year, at which time her

stepfather, in India, had arranged a marriage between her and a rich but

uninteresting old judge. One of her numerous admirers told her this.

"What on earth am I to do?" asked little Lola, most naively.

"Why, marry me," said the artful adviser, who was Captain Thomas James;

and so the very next day they fled to Dublin and were speedily married

at Meath.

Lola's husband was violently in love with her, but, unfortunately,

others were no less susceptible to her charms. She was presented at

the vice-regal court, and everybody there became her victim. Even the

viceroy, Lord Normanby, was greatly taken with her. This nobleman's

position was such that Captain James could not object to his attentions,

though they made the husband angry to a degree. The viceroy would draw

her into alcoves and engage her in flattering conversation, while poor

James could only gnaw his nails and let green-eyed jealousy prey upon

his heart. His only recourse was to take her into the country, where she

speedily became bored; and boredom is the death of love.

Later she went with Captain James to India. She endured a campaign in

Afghanistan, in which she thoroughly enjoyed herself because of the

attentions of the officers. On her return to London in 1842, one Captain

Lennox was a fellow passenger; and their association resulted in an

action for divorce, by which she was freed from her husband, and yet by

a technicality was not able to marry Lennox, whose family in any case

would probably have prevented the wedding.

Mrs. Mayne says, in writing on this point:

Even Lola never quite succeeded in being allowed to commit bigamy

unmolested, though in later years she did commit it and took refuge in

Spain to escape punishment.

The same writer has given a vivid picture of what happened soon after

the divorce. Lola tried to forget her past and to create a new and

brighter future. Here is the narrative:

Her Majesty's Theater was crowded on the night of June 10,1843. A new

Spanish dancer was announced--"Dona Lola Montez." It was her debut, and

Lumley, the manager, had been puffing her beforehand, as he alone knew

how. To Lord Ranelagh, the leader of the dilettante group of fashionable

young men, he had whispered, mysteriously:

"I have a surprise in store. You shall see."

So Ranelagh and a party of his friends filled the omnibus boxes,

those tribunes at the side of the stage whence success or failure was

pronounced. Things had been done with Lumley's consummate art; the

packed house was murmurous with excitement. She was a raving beauty,

said report--and then, those intoxicating Spanish dances! Taglioni,

Cerito, Fanny Elssler, all were to be eclipsed.

Ranelagh's glasses were steadily leveled on the stage from the

moment her entrance was imminent. She came on. There was a murmur of

admiration--but Ranelagh made no sign. And then she began to dance.

A sense of disappointment, perhaps? But she was very lovely, very

graceful, "like a flower swept by the wind, she floated round the

stage"--not a dancer, but, by George, a beauty! And still Ranelagh made

no sign.

Yet, no. What low, sibilant sound is that? And then what confused, angry

words from the tribunal? He turns to his friends, his eyes ablaze with

anger, opera-glass in hand. And now again the terrible "Hiss-s-s!" taken

up by the other box, and the words repeated loudly and more angrily

even than before--the historic words which sealed Lola's doom at Her

Majesty's Theater: "WHY, IT'S BETTY JAMES!"

She was, indeed, Betty James, and London would not accept her as Lola

Montez. She left England and appeared upon the Continent as a beautiful

virago, making a sensation--as the French would say, a succes de

scandale--by boxing the ears of people who offended her, and even on one

occasion horsewhipping a policeman who was in attendance on the King of

Prussia. In Paris she tried once more to be a dancer, but Paris would

not have her. She betook herself to Dresden and Warsaw, where she

sought to attract attention by her eccentricities, making mouths at the

spectators, flinging her garters in their faces, and one time removing

her skirts and still more necessary garments, whereupon her manager

broke off his engagement with her.

An English writer who heard a great deal of her and who saw her often

about this time writes that there was nothing wonderful about her except

"her beauty and her impudence." She had no talent nor any of the graces

which make women attractive; yet many men of talent raved about her. The

clever young journalist, Dujarrier, who assisted Emile Girardin, was her

lover in Paris. He was killed in a duel and left Lola twenty thousand

francs and some securities, so that she no longer had to sing in the

streets as she did in Warsaw.

She now betook herself to Munich, the capital of Bavaria. That country

was then governed by Ludwig I., a king as eccentric as Lola herself. He

was a curious compound of kindliness, ideality, and peculiar ways. For

instance, he would never use a carriage even on state occasions. He

prowled around the streets, knocking off the hats of those whom he

chanced to meet. Like his unfortunate descendant, Ludwig II., he

wrote poetry, and he had a picture-gallery devoted to portraits of the

beautiful women whom he had met.

He dressed like an English fox-hunter, with a most extraordinary hat,

and what was odd and peculiar in others pleased him because he was odd

and peculiar himself. Therefore when Lola made her first appearance at

the Court Theater he was enchanted with her. He summoned her at once to

the palace, and within five days he presented her to the court, saying

as he did so:

"Meine Herren, I present you to my best friend."

In less than a month this curious monarch had given Lola the title of

Countess of Landsfeld. A handsome house was built for her, and a pension

of twenty thousand florins was granted her. This was in 1847. With the

people of Munich she was unpopular. They did not mind the eccentricities

of the king, since these amused them and did the country no perceptible

harm; but they were enraged by this beautiful woman, who had no softness

such as a woman ought to have. Her swearing, her readiness to box the

ears of every one whom she disliked, the huge bulldog which accompanied

her everywhere--all these things were beyond endurance.

She was discourteous to the queen, besides meddling with the politics of

the kingdom. Either of these things would have been sufficient to

make her hated. Together, they were more than the city of Munich could

endure. Finally the countess tried to establish a new corps in the

university. This was the last touch of all. A student who ventured to

wear her colors was beaten and arrested. Lola came to his aid with all

her wonted boldness; but the city was in commotion.

Daggers were drawn; Lola was hustled and insulted. The foolish king

rushed out to protect her; and on his arm she was led in safety to the

palace. As she entered the gates she turned and fired a pistol into the

mob. No one was hurt, but a great rage took possession of the people.

The king issued a decree closing the university for a year. By this

time, however, Munich was in possession of a mob, and the Bavarians

demanded that she should leave the country.

Ludwig faced the chamber of peers, where the demand of the populace was

placed before him.

"I would rather lose my crown!" he replied.

The lords of Bavaria regarded him with grim silence; and in their eyes

he read the determination of his people. On the following day a royal

decree revoked Lola's rights as a subject of Bavaria, and still another

decree ordered her to be expelled. The mob yelled with joy and burned

her house. Poor Ludwig watched the tumult by the light of the leaping


He was still in love with her and tried to keep her in the kingdom; but

the result was that Ludwig himself was forced to abdicate. He had given

his throne for the light love of this beautiful but half-crazy woman.

She would have no more to do with him; and as for him, he had to give

place to his son Maximilian. Ludwig had lost a kingdom merely because

this strange, outrageous creature had piqued him and made him think that

she was unique among women.

The rest of her career was adventurous. In England she contracted a

bigamous marriage with a youthful officer, and within two weeks they

fled to Spain for safety from the law. Her husband was drowned, and she

made still another marriage. She visited Australia, and at Melbourne she

had a fight with a strapping woman, who clawed her face until Lola

fell fainting to the ground. It is a squalid record of horse-whippings,

face-scratchings--in short, a rowdy life.

Her end was like that of Becky Sharp. In America she delivered lectures

which were written for her by a clergyman and which dealt with the art

of beauty. She had a temporary success; but soon she became quite

poor, and took to piety, professing to be a sort of piteous, penitent

Magdalen. In this role she made effective use of her beautiful dark

hair, her pallor, and her wonderful eyes. But the violence of her

disposition had wrecked her physically; and she died of paralysis in

Astoria, on Long Island, in 1861. Upon her grave in Greenwood Cemetery,

Brooklyn, there is a tablet to her memory, bearing the inscription:

"Mrs. Eliza Gilbert, born 1818, died 1861."

What can one say of a woman such as this? She had no morals, and her

manners were outrageous. The love she felt was the love of a she-wolf.

Fourteen biographies of her have been written, besides her own

autobiography, which was called The Story of a Penitent, and which tells

less about her than any of the other books. Her beauty was undeniable.

Her courage was the blended courage of the Celt, the Spaniard, and the

Moor. Yet all that one can say of her was said by the elder Dumas when

he declared that she was born to be the evil genius of every one who

cared for her. Her greatest fame comes from the fact that in less than

three years she overturned a kingdom and lost a king his throne.