Seducing kings to the left,
Dancing sans drawers!
Welcome again to Ehler’s Choice Week, where I do what my family says for once in my life. Today, we have Lola Montez, an Irish courtesan, dancer, and actress – and also a possible inspiration for Irene Adler, one of the women acknowledged by Sherlock Holmes for any length of time and with any respect. She was chosen by my sainted mother.
Lola Montez was born Eliza Gilbert in Ireland in 1821. Her father was a soldier, her mother the child of a High Sheriff and MP. Young Eliza wasn’t in the world for long before the family shipped off to India… where her dad up and died of cholera. Her mom married another soldier, who was NOT of the evil stepfather variety. He tried to do right by her and thinking that a stay in Britain might help (particularly with her temper), sent Eliza to live with his own relatives.
That had… mixed results. Up in Scotland with her step-granddad, Eliza pulled such stunts as running through the town naked. Then she had a year-long spell at her step-aunt’s boarding school in England before being sent to another school in Bath. THAT lasted until she was 16.
For she had eloped with a dashing soldier! As with a lot of these sorts of marriages, it wasn’t a success. By 1842, she’d ditched both her husband and her name in Calcutta, becoming Lola Montez, exotic Spanish dancer!
Under her new name, Montez danced her way to London (where she was soon recognized, worst luck), then to Paris. She had an affair with composer Franz Liszt, who had her meet all his cool friends, including George Sand, Alexandre Dumas (another possible lover)… and Alexandre Dujarier, newspaper editor, whose passionate love sprang fresh life into her dancing! It also led to the dummy offending another dude at a party he and Montez had bickered about, and subsequently getting shot to death in a duel. So, Munich?
Yes, Munich, where in 1846, she embarked on her most famous love affair of all – that with Ludwig I of Bavaria. The entanglement was ‘controversial’ as far as the locals were concerned. Ludwig, perhaps entranced by Lola’s sizeable bosom, liked to listen to her political advice, which had a liberal bent to it. This pissed off the conservatives. Lola still had that previously mentioned temper, which pissed everyone off. Lola got Ludwig to close the universities because the students were on the fence about her, which pissed the students off. So it came to pass in 1848, a year of tumult for Europe, that Ludwig was kicked off his throne and Lola was chased out of Bavaria.
But there was no time for heartbreak, for later that year, as soon as she got to London, she married another soldier. Bigamously this time, as her earlier divorce didn’t allow for remarriage. The newlyweds scarpered, the marriage soon became rocky, but Lola didn’t have to worry about getting rid of him, as Husband #2 conveniently drowned in 1851. So, America?
Yes, America! There, she was pretty successful, dancing up and down the east coast, then over to San Francisco. She married a newspaper man this time, but yeah, that ended in divorce. So, Australia?
Yes, Australia! Where she quickly became (in)famous with the multitude of gold miners and the respectable public at large with her ‘Spider Dance’. (This involved lifting her skirts so high that everyone in the audience could determine the presence of underwear, or lack thereof. You can see how that might cause a stir.) Her most inspiring incident occurred in Ballarat, where she went after an editor with a horsewhip after giving her a bad review.
In 1856, she returned to the States (her manager falling overboard on the way), but unfortunately, she didn’t last long. Her health was rapidly going downhill and no one in the country cared to see her dancing anymore. Her final years, of which there were few, were spent doing charitable work for women.
Lola Montez died in New York in 1861 of syphilis.