Rouges Gallery Uncovered
Whip It - Lola Montez
Lola Montez has done it again. Munich is ablaze with revolution and a furious mob of students and townspeople are laying siege to her palatial home, loudly demanding that she leaves. Blazing torches are waved, stones are thrown, windows break and threats of violence fill the air. Lola adjusts a hat in the mirror, opens the front door and stands proudly before the crowd, who fall immediately silent. With head held high, she stands defiantly before the seething belligerent mass, a pistol in each dainty hand. Her eyes blazing with hatred she then turns the air blue with a full-throated verbal assault, that makes the mobs anger seem like a tiny spark next to a roaring bonfire. Her fury is beyond insane and the language she uses to curse them all is almost too obscene to listen to. “Kill me if you dare” she screams pointing to her chest but before anyone can her up on the offer, she is physically picked up by her friends and bundled towards safety. As she is carried back into, what to all intents and purposes is her palace, the exotic dancer and adventurer who has scandalized Europe and enslaved a king, ponders that this isn’t the first time she’s caused a revolution. It’s not her fault….. she’s just passionate that’s all.
Her name’s not even Lola Montez it’s Eliza Gilbert and despite claiming to be Spanish and the cousin of a matador she was actually born in Ireland. What is true however is that she’s breathtakingly beautiful, intelligent, erudite and with a contempt for authority and convention that makes her irresistible to everybody… until she loses her temper.
Eliza spent much of her childhood in India as her mother had eloped there with an ensign of the 25th Regiment of Foot, when she fell pregnant. Within months of their arrival however, her father succumbed to disease and her now widowed mother settled in Calcutta. With insufficient funds to make the return journey, mother and daughter were effectively stranded and relied heavily upon the charity of the English community in order to survive.
Eliza’s vivacious mother soon caught the eye of one Lt Patrick Craigie of the 19th Native Infantry Regiment of the British East India Company. The courtship was swift and he quickly became Eliza’s stepfather. Eliza claims that after the wedding her mother, was more concerned with clothes and social engagements than with the duties of motherhood so she was left alone much of the time with a succession of Indian ayas. She recalled happily playing barefoot, bathing in the Houghly and chewing beEtel nuts until her mouth was bright red. In 1826, she was parted from her mother and step father when the opportunity arose for her to attend a prestigious English school. Not really wanting to leave India, she embarked on the five-month voyage in the care of a kindly Company Lt Colonel and his wife. Already wilful at six years of age, Eliza spent much of the voyage throwing spectacular tantrums which no doubt sorely tested the couple’s patience. Her first few months in England saw her disruptive behaviour increase. She infuriated adults by running through the streets with no clothes on and once stuck flowers in an elderly gentleman’s wig during a church service. Her time at the Albridge Academy however was well spent, she learned French – if pupils were heard speaking English during the week, their pocket money was fined – and dancing, which she loved. In fact, she received a much more comprehensive education than most girls from her social station as her parents were eager that she secure an advantageous marriage. Sadly, for them, it would prove to be a complete waste of money. Finding the discipline of school increasingly constricting and with a head full of romantic notions, Eliza followed in her mother’s footsteps and eloped back to India with an army officer thirteen years her senior. Leaving the older woman fuming. It was not, unfortunately, the joyous homecoming Lola had envisaged. Her new husband became abusive, the climate was unbearable, and their income was minimal. In the end, Eliza had no choice but to leave the marriage behind and return to her parents’ house in Calcutta. This made her mother fume all the more - if it wasn’t bad enough that she’d ruined her prospects by eloping, now that she’d left her husband, she was “Soiled Goods” and no man of quality would even think of asking for her hand. Deciding that she had no future in Indian society, her parents gave Eliza the money to return to England on the East Indiamen Larkins, sailing out of Madras. In the cramped confines of the vessel, it was not surprising that a woman of Eliza’s charms would attract male attention and Eliza saw no reason not to enjoy it. She engaged in an increasingly shameless liaison with a returning army officer named Lennox. Eliza’s chaperone for the journey noted that she was behaving in an “Unguarded and flighty” manner around him but was told by her charge in no uncertain terms to mind her own bloody business. What started with a gentlemanly (but inappropriate) arm around the waist when sitting upon the on the poop deck, soon became visits to each other’s cabins in the middle of the night. During a particularly choppy spell of weather, the door to one of the cabins fell open and a prying maid saw a half-naked Eliza pulling up her stockings while a satisfied Lennox watched her from across the room. There could be no doubt as to what the two had been engaged in as the ship surged beneath them.
A shameless Eliza was brazenly unconcerned even when her fellow passengers shunned her and she found herself no longer invited to dine at the captain’s table, and when the ship reached port, she and Lennox continued their relationship. News of this eventually got back to India, and Lola’s estranged husband – his honour in shreds – sued for divorce. By the time this toing and froing across the Indian Ocean was completed, however, Lennox had moved on to another conquest and Eliza had come to the conclusion that she was destined for much greater things. With a plan forming in her mind, she decided to do whatever it took to live the life she felt she deserved…on nobody’s terms but her own.
The first thing she did was get rid of plain Eliza Gilbert and adopt an entirely new identity – the fiery and exotic Spanish dancer, Maria Dolores de Porris y Montez – “Lola” to her admirers. The newly rechristened Lola approached several wealthy patrons to finance her debut on the London stage. All of these men had surprisingly few qualms about sinking money into an unknown act of dubious talent. Not for the first time Lola’s striking appearance, passionate demeanour and single-minded determination overcame any common-sense arguments. The chances are these men were also enjoying private performances of their own, as it was common for poorly paid dancers to trade sexual favours in return for financial support. Lola even managed to persuade a London journalist to write an article promoting her appearance. She had, at that time, never danced upon a public stage and he had no knowledge of her act but that didn’t stop him writing; “Donna Lolah Montes who makes her debut tonight upon this stage will for the first time introduce the Spanish dance to the English public….Her dance is the history of a passion…The variety of passion which it embodies – the languor, the abandon, the love, the pride, the scorn – one of the steps which is called “death to the tarantula” is the very poetry of avenging contempt - cannot be surpassed”
Publicity such as this ensured that on the night of 3 June 1843 Her Majesty’s Theatre was enjoying a full house – even the foyer was heaving with people intrigued to see this new dancing sensation.
Backstage Lola, peered through the curtain at an expectant crowd without a hint of nerves. She was dressed in a tight velvet bodice that accentuated her curves, and a flowing blue and red skirt that she knew would reveal tantalizing glimpses of legs and ankles when she spun around.
The audience gasped when she stepped into the spotlight but when she started to dance, they were not sure exactly what they were looking at. Her moves were uncomplicated and savage, her attitude was haughty and unsmiling – it was most definitely not what they were used to. Gradually Lola’s supporters in the crowd began to applaud and their enthusiasm soon became infectious.
With every stamp of her foot and “clack” of her castanets the audience roared until by the end of her performance Lola was being showered with bouquets of flowers. The theatre manager realised immediately that she was not even close to being a professional dancer, but he knew a crowd puller when he saw one.
Most of the reviews were glowing and Lola Montez found herself the toast of the London stage. Skills took years to acquire but success could be far more quickly achieved if one combined, beauty, stage presence, immodest movements and flesh coloured body stockings.
As her reputation grew, Lola had no shortage of wealthy male admirers to keep her in the style, she knew she deserved. Sex, like everything, else was on her terms and she maintained lucrative relationships with her many admirers until she simply tired of them or until they committed the cardinal sin of offending her. At this point, she would explode in fury and horsewhip them – on one occasion she even drew a pistol.
Success in London was short lived.
Many influential patrons who were aficionados of dance, were outraged that Lola claimed to be an authentic Spanish Dancer when it was obvious that she was nothing of the sort – she even claimed to be related to a matador!
Some of them began jeering and cat-calling during her performances but were treated with the icy contempt they deserved by the raven-haired vision upon the stage.
One evening however, in a coordinated act of sabotage, a group of Lola’s detractors publicly revealed that her Spanish identity was a sham and that she was in fact an Irish divorcee of very questionable morals.
The theatre cancelled her contract, other venues refused to book her and Lola’s career ended as quickly as it had begun. For any other performer such catastrophic public humiliation would have seen them retiring to a small hamlet on Dartmoor, never again to show their faces to an audience. Lola, packed her valise and went on a tour of Europe.
Lola’s first port of call was a small German principality ruled by Prince Heinrich LXXII. 72ND The 46-year-old bachelor had invited Lola to his court after being overcome by her charms whilst visiting London. Flattered – but not at all surprised – by his attentions, Lola quickly decided that she deserved nothing less than a royal title with all that that entailed. And just because she didn’t actually have one, it didn’t mean that she couldn’t act like she did. On her arrival at Leipzig she demanded that all of her possession be loaded onto the grand coach in which she was traveling and that those servants not busy should all sit with her so she had someone to talk to – even though she spoke virtually no German. She sat in the rattling coach smoking, filling the space with chocking fumes and when she asked the diver if she could climb on the roof and drive, she was told “no”– because it was unsafe. Furiously she struck the poor man in the face with her fan – it was sign of things to come.
Although Prince Heinrich was a generous host Lola soon grew tired of him and the feeling was mutual. He found her affectations tiresome and she was annoyed that whenever she made a joke about him nobody laughed. The final straw came when they visited Heinrich’s favourite hunting lodge at VIED MANS HEIL The Prince had arranged a choir of local children to sing traditional folk songs but as they launched into their performance, Lola grimaced each time they missed a note. As the children’s rendition progressed Lola covered, her ears with her hands and cried “Oh this is horrible, get rid of this rabble.”
The outraged prince gripped her by the right arm and tried to lead her away from the young singers but as he did so she angrily reached for a knife concealed in her belt. Simultaneously realising the dire consequences of stabbing a crown prince – even of a small principality- Lola managed to rein in her sudden outrage. Before the blade had been fully drawn, she had changed her snarl into a smile, resumed her seat, and promised the prince no more critiques.
When one of the young singers climbed down from the tree in which he was performing however it was simply too good an opportunity for her to resist. Pointing to a hunting dog that dozed nearby she cried “Get Him” and it immediately bounded across the grass and pinned the terrified lad beneath its paws, while she howled with laughter. Pulling the dog away Heinrich shouted “That won’t happen again Madame, I am the master here” Lola’s reply never missed a beat “And I, am the mistress.” She was gone soon after.
At the Stadtheater SHTDAD TEEARTER in Potsdam, Lola was invited to dance for King Friedrich Wilhelm the fourth and his guest, Tsar Nicholas the first of Russia. During the performance she grew thirsty and demanded some water but was informed that because of royal protocol no performer could not eat or drink in the presence of the king. On hearing this she flew into a rage and shouted she would not continue with the dance until her demands were met. The King – who could have had her thrown out – took a goblet of water and pressed it to his own lips before handing it to her. This diplomatic and magnanimous gesture allowed her to get what she wanted while still following royal etiquette. The Tsar was equally impressed and was later said to have discussed matters of state with the Lola – he was also rumoured to have offered her one thousand roubles for a “Private Audience.”
The most important part of the Tsars visit however was his attendance at a grand military parade in front of nearly sixty thousand Berliners. Special viewing areas were reserved for VIPs while the rest of the crowd had to make do with wherever they could find - marshalled into place by scores of harassed policemen. Lola was supposed to be among the general public, but she felt she deserved to be in with the VIPs. Astride an impressive black horse she attempted to gain entry to the royal enclosure but was turned away by a mounted policeman who took hold of her bridle and attempted to lead her back to the public area. Infuriated, Lola took out her horsewhip and thrashed the man vigorously around the head and face. Lola’s behaviour led to a court summons – which she tore up and stamped on - but ultimately, she was not convicted of any offense. As the story made its way around Europe though, Lola found her reputation skyrocketing and demand for her performances increased. There really was no such thing as bad publicity.
In the capital of Russia-controlled Poland, Lola attracted the attentions of Colonel Ignacy Abramowiez, who was not only manager of The Grand Theatre but also chief of the city’s police. As most men who came into her orbit did, he tried to seduce her, but she found him particularly unattractive. When his advances became too inappropriate, she threw the fifty-year-old Russian out of her carriage and into the pouring rain. She also began to loudly say, to whoever would listen, that she couldn’t understand how the Polish people could put up with Russian occupation and if it was up to her, she would kill the invaders with a special poison.
Neither of these actions endeared her to Abramowiez, who stationed his secret police in the audience of all her subsequent performances with orders to hiss and heckle whenever she was on stage. Some reports said that Lola would angrily point her posterior at the audience whenever such behaviour occurred. After three such occasions, Lola had enough. She strode to the front of the stage and pointing an accusing finger up at Abramowiez – who was sitting in the director’s box – she related the whole sordid affair to the audience and accused the director of trying to use his position to ruin a poor defenceless woman.
The Polish audience – who needed little excuse to dislike their Russian rulers – exploded in fury and spilled out onto the street, some crying for revolution. Desperate to have her deported but unable to do so until he got permission from a higher authority, Abramowiez had Lola confined to her hotel room. At first, Lola reacted with predicable fury, slapping the police officer guarding her door, brandishing her dagger at him and demanding to be set free. When it became clear that she was soon to be ejected from the country however she flatly refused to come out of her room, turning her imprisonment into a state of siege. It took the intervention of one of Lola’s more wealthy supporters to persuade her to come out without causing anyone serious injury – he invited her to stay with him in the country. She refused, instead, she decided to continue on her tour, leaving chaos in her wake.
Perhaps deciding that relationships with royal men were too volatile, Lola turned her attentions to one of the most celebrated artists of the age, the composer Franz Liszt. At the height of his considerable powers, the thirty-two-year-old genius’s intellect and talent fascinated her and she felt the two would be well suited - as equals obviously. Having set her sights upon the composer it wasn’t long before the two were enjoying a fiery, passionate affair with even renowned ladies’ man Liszt worn to a hollow-eyed frazzle by the energetic demands of his new companion. The two had been invited to a dinner held in Liszt’s honour by some of Dresden’s most distinguished men. When they arrived, Lola noticed that one of her friends, the Italian tenor Pantaleoni, had not been invited so she flew into a rage until he was sent for. When he was shown in, Pantaleoni was so offended that he had been invited as an afterthought that he harangued the entire company and got into a fist fight with one of Dresden’s most influential architects. Lola told him to calm down, and he replied by telling her that she could not speak to him that way as “he wasn’t a policeman”, at which point she slapped his face. Pantaleoni responded to this with a hand gesture so rude that Lola apparently fainted clean away – presumably from anger rather than offense. Amidst all this carnage Liszt could have been forgiven for thinking “I thought this was supposed to be my night.” In the end, the great composer realised that even he needed to bring this particular concerto to a close. One night, while Lola slept in their hotel room, he quietly got out of bed, tiptoed gingerly to the door, closed it behind him, turned the key in the lock and then ran for the exit. At the desk he instructed the manager not to unlock the door for twelve hours – to give him plenty of time to get away – and then handed him a wad of cash for the damage he knew Lola would cause when she woke up.
Lola made her Parisian debut dancing in the Opera Le lazzarone where she captivated and shocked the audience by wearing a very revealing costume and somehow managing to take off her garter mid-dance before throwing it lewdly into the crowd. The French capital’s social elite gave her a standing ovation and the obligatory deluge of flowers. Subsequent performances, however, became less and less well received and Lola had to content herself with living the high life in the cultural capital of the world with a growing coterie of bohemian friends – including the smitten newspaper editor Alexandre DOO SHAR EE AY who became first her lover and then her fiancé. While her dancing may have been underappreciated in some quarters, Lola’s abilities with a pistol were widely celebrated - it was admiringly reported that she left her target card full of holes of the shooting gallery at Lepage. This was in stark contrast to Dujarier who could not hit a barn door from two paces and who had refused every call to educate himself with sword and pistol. This in a society that where duelling to satisfy affairs of honour was still commonplace – although illegal. It was only a matter of time, Dujarier reasoned, before he would be challenged so rather than waste precious time preparing for the inevitable, he put his trust in God to keep him safe.
His faith was misplaced.
Following a trifling argument over a small gambling debt, fellow journalist – and enthusiastic duellist – Jean-Baptiste Rosemond de Beauvallon, felt his honour had been impinged and demanded Dujarier meet him in the Bois de Bologne. The meeting went as well as one might expect, Dujarier’s aim was wild and instead of standing sideways – to offer a smaller target – he presented his chest to his opponent and loudly demanded that he fire in response. The brutal Beauvallon didn’t hesitate and shot him in the face. A devastated Lola, who had desperately tried to prevent the duel – which for once wasn’t over her- found brief solace with the author Alexandre Dumas. Paris however had lost its allure and without Dujarier’s influence Lola’s chances of making a career for herself in France were nil. It was time to move on.
In Bonn Lola, managed to bluster her way into a banquet being held in honour of Franz Liszt and sat, scandalously, as the only woman at a table full of men. At the end of the meal, the ladies in attendance retired while the men relaxedver cigars – Lola remained in her seat and lit a cigar of her own. Later during a long, rambling toast that covered most of the nations in western Europe, a tipsy Liszt forgot to raise a glass to the French. Gallic voices were raised in drunken protest and as he tried desperately to apologise, the embarrassed genius found himself struggling to be heard.
In a burst of passionate loyalty, Lola leaped upon the table and loudly demanded that the assembled company paid immediate attention. Carelessly striding among the silverware, it’s said she accidentally kicked a bowl of hot soup into one of the offended party’s laps. As the banquet broke up in confusion Liszt was reminded as to why he was no longer sleeping with her.
Lola decamped to the fashionable spa resort of BAR DEN BAR DEN where she scandalized onlookers with her aggressive gambling at the casino tables and by replying to a question about her physical flexibility by flinging a leg onto the shoulder of a man standing in front of her - revealing an outrageous amount of petticoat and naked thigh as she did it. She was thrown out of Baden Baden but it was at her next destination where he true destiny lay.
Lola arrived in Munich and petitioned to dance at the köOO-nig-li-che Hof-und-National Theatre. The theatre director mindful of her reputation as a horsewhipper of policemen and fermenter of civil and dining table unrest, refused outright. Livid, Lola asked for a private audience with King Ludwig to plead her case. Intrigued by the lurid stories flying around Europe about this exquisite firebrand, he agreed. She arrived at the royal residence squeezed into a strikingly flattering costume at which Ludwig stared like a drowning man bobbing in front of the Great Eastern. Unable to tear his eyes from her splendid cleavage, he rather indelicately asked if the view was artifice or nature at which point Lola passionately yanked open the front of her bodice and thrust the generous proof in his royal face. A pop eyed Ludwig fell in love on the spot and the theatre director became immediately unemployed. Lola’s Munich performances polarized audiences, just as they had all elsewhere with as many people booing as cheering. A smitten Ludwig went to great pains to locate the ringleaders of any negative feedback and, if he could punish, them accordingly. Within a few weeks Lola’s portrait had been added to Ludwig’s famous “Gallery of Beauties” and she found herself living in her own villa refurbished at a cost of one-and-a-half million marks. She and Ludwig were inseparable and there were rumours that the voluptuous “Spanish” dancer was beginning to exert a worrying hold over the Prussian king – someone said she was trying to turn him into a Freemason.
Despite his devotion to her, the couple were rarely intimate and Lola had turned to a cavalry officer named NuBbammer for additional support - often seeking his council alone in her rooms during the evening.
Occasionally however - if his duties did not permit, - NuBbammer was not be able to attend to her needs at which Lola had been known to go stalking through the streets looking for him, shouting obscenities at his landlady, breaking his windows and loudly announcing that she was the royal mistress and could do whatever she wanted.
After one such missed meeting, she had Ludwig transfer NuBbammer to a unit many miles from the city. Ludwig was happy to do so as he was an extremely jealous man and suspected that NuBbammer could be a rival for Lola’s affections – he was right about that.
As her relationship with the King deepened, Lola’s political influence grew and she came into frequent conflict with both conservatives and Jesuits (of whom she had an irrational dislike.) Despite his ministers many misgivings – her reputation, her morality, her temperament etc - Ludwig made her countess of Lansfield in 1847 so they could ultimately marry and also granted her a substantial annuity. People began to say that Lola was the real power in Bavaria – she certainly lived and acted like it.
In an effort to convince Ludwig of Lola’s unsuitability certain factions at the palace had her placed under surveillance and regularly reported back to the king about the number of men she was entertaining in her rooms and her continuing “closeness” with NuBbammer (whom she had forgiven)
The King wouldn’t hear any of it, refusing to believe that she was anything other than totally innocent. One of Ludwig’s generals, General Hendricks orchestrated a meeting with her (with the king secretly in attendance) just so he could see for himself how unstable she was. Hendricks politely asked her about the rumours of her promiscuous behaviour at which Lola’s eyes began to bulge and she started foaming at the mouth and tearing at her clothes. Screaming threats and obscenities, Lola crashed around the room, damaging furniture and breaking a china tea service. When Ludwig revealed himself, she turned her fury on him, refusing to apologise for her behaviour as she felt she had nothing to apologise for. At the end of the meeting, Hendricks took Ludwig to one side and, convinced that such a display would result in her being banned from court immediately, hinted that that was the last the king would see of her. “On the contrary replied Ludwig “I promised to call on her this evening.” Hendricks response was unrepeatable.
After she tore up a court summons and threw it back in the officers face wags in Munich began to ask “What’s the difference between Prussia and Bavaria? “In Prussia the police kicked Lola Montez out, In Bavaria Lola Montez kicked the police out.” Most of Ludwig’s court however weren’t laughing.
At a party, Lola almost caused a riot by slapping the host during a heated argument and then knocking the glasses from the face of one of the guests who tried to calm her down. Later the same week, she physically attacked a deliveryman who waved a cudgel at her dog after it had bitten him on the leg. As she pummelled the hapless burgher an angry crowd gathered and she and her friends were chased in to a silversmith’s shop. The furious mob were thwarted after several hours of hurling abuse at the shop window when Lola found a ladder and escaped over the back wall.
The crowd outside refused to budge, not believing that she was gone and was still screaming for her deportation while Lola was at home writing to the king about how ill-used she had been. So many people in Munich hated her but Lola, didn’t seem to care, in fact she seemed to go out of her way to infuriate them and show off her contempt. At the opera, she timed her arrival to coincide with Ludwig’s so that when the audience to stood to welcome him, they were also standing up to welcome her.
Ludwig was eager to show that he was a strong king but when he dismissed a popular university professor, a group of students – already angry at his weakness over Lola – took to the streets.
After crowding around the professor’s house to demonstrate their support for him they set off for Lola’s apartments to show their disapproval. Lola stood in the window shaking her fists with fury and brandishing a butter knife – the crowd had swelled to six thousand - five times more that there were students at the university.
When Lola began taunting them by raising glass of champagne in their honour, stones were hurled. At this, the loyal lieutenant NuBbammer tried to pull her away from the window but she hit him repeatedly and carried on with her taunting. The cavalry arrived wielding sabres, to restore order, and peace could have been enforced, but then Ludwig turned up and went into the house to make sure Lola had not been harmed, infuriating the crowd once again.
People watching, said they could hear Lola laughing at them from inside her luxurious residence, others said they saw her casually juggling some of the stones that had been thrown at her before hurling them back into the sea of angry faces - a few said they saw her attempt to fire a pistol at them before being dragged away.
As he left, Ludwig was booed and jeered by a populous that had lost all respect for him, and when he returned to the palace, he found that too surrounded by hundreds of angry people, many also throwing stones – After visiting a friend, his mother had put on a disguise in order to sneak back in.