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. 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 world.



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 importance.



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 flames.



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.





Lieutenant General Sheridan Louis Agassiz facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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