note: I am having quite a Lola day today. Thought this little piece should come out of hiding —new and improved with some more pictures!
Her name at birth was Marie Dolores Eliza Rosanna Gilbert, but by the time she seduced my uncle, everyone knew her as Lola Montez, the Spanish Dancer and Enchantress.
By the time she’d arrived in Bavaria, she’d already danced her way into and out of India, London, Spain, Paris and Dresden, leaving a trail of scandal and fractured hearts in her path.
Having been born in Limerick, and raised in India, young Dolores learned sensual, exotic dancing from her Hindu servants–and as her future as a professional castle-wrecker, her practice of the danse du ventre served her well.
By the time she was fifteen, she was an uncontrollable flirt. Her Indian stepfather, in an attempt to keep her chaste, arranged a marriage for her with a boring old judge. Alas, her “see you next Tuesday” self had no interest in domesticity. Her name was Lola, after all, and she was a show girl! So off she strutted, leapfrogging and belly-dancing her way to notoriety and fortune, and political power.
As soon as he first laid eyes on her, he had her summoned to the Residenz, and within five days he presented her to the court as the love of his life.
Much to Mummi’s horror (not to mention Ludwig wife’s distress), he soon gave the notorious belly dancer the title, Countess of Landsfeld. In short order, he built her a sturdy house, and issued her a pension of twenty thousand florins.
Ah, but she had quite the temper, this passionate Lola Montez. She often flew into unprovoked rages, even sometimes boxing the ears of her nay-sayers. She kept a large, drooling bulldog beside her at all times–even took the dog to opera! Worst of all, she was discourteous to the queen, besides meddling with the politics of the kingdom.
But it wasn’t until she started stirring things up at the University that the camel’s back broke. The residents of Munich drew their daggers against the harlot, and poor, lovesick King Ludwig came to her aid, renouncing the people, his city and, indeed, his country, all for the sake of–dare I say it–lust!
However, there came a day, when she approached the gates of Residenz and was the object of much scorn by a riotous group who’d assembled out front, she turned to the crowd, and drew a pistol, firing it into the mob. Well, that was it, more mobs assembled, demanding a ruling beyond that of the king.
Poor, lovesick Uncle Ludwig stood before the court and lamented that he’d rather lose his crown than give up his mistress.
His royal advisers hung their heads in embarrassment. It was too much, and the next day, a royal decree revoked Lola’s rights as a subject of Bavaria, and still another decree ordered her to be expelled. The rioters jumped for joy and in their celebration burnt her house to ashes. Poor Ludwig watched the commotion by the light of the leaping flames.
You see, my uncle was still madly in love with the half-crazy woman.
Soon thereafter, he fell into a deep depression, and gave his crown up to his son, Maximilian – my much older, wiser, albeit sickly cousin. Naturally, as soon as her old lover was no longer king, Lola moved on, taking her belly dancing to far off lands on all the continents, leaving a splintered trail of hearts and kingdoms all over the world.
“It is not enough to conquer; one must know how to seduce.” (Voltaire)
They say that the Victorian era was backlash against the unabashed romps of us 19th-century sensual types. What do you think? Never was whiskey as plentiful as during prohibition, yes?
All this hoopla over mommy porn. You’d think this E.L. James invented the bodice ripper. The throbbing member. The very idea of “secret tryst.”
Well, let me set you straight. When it comes to clandestine titillation and BDSM, the Victorians were, shall we say, seasoned in the art of fantasy.
I submit this coy little excerpt:
“Laura Middleton: Her Brother and Her Lover” published by Anonymous, in 1890.
Taking hold of her hand I placed it upon the stiff object and made her grasp it as it throbbed and beat with the excitement under which I was labouring. Her eyes were fixed upon the lovely object thus exposed to her gaze, and I could easily see from the flushing of her face and the sparkling of her eyes what a powerful impression I had made upon her.
All she said was, “Oh, but if John should know of it.”
I immediately replied, “But why should John know anything about it? You don’t suppose I am such a mean wretch as to tell anybody of what we may do, and if you only keep your own secrets no one need ever know anything about it.
“But perhaps,” I continued, “you think this little gentleman,” and I shoved the furious member backwards and forwards two or three times in her hand as she still continued to grasp it, “is not so big as John’s and won’t give you so much pleasure, but only let me try and I shall do all I can to pleasure you.”
Though we lacked the furtive graces of an e-reader, many a lady hid these little books behind a fan, or in the undergarments, shielded from sight by the complicated garments of the day. Oh, no, this Shades of Grey phenomenon is not new, not hardly. Mommy porn of the 19th century thrived and was passed, hand-to-hand, from Court to Countess to Commoner. We certainly had our own book clubs and garden parties and Ladies-in-Waiting sessions while our strapping men went about their business, their stiff objects leading the way.
We did not have People and Us and Entertainment Weekly. We did not have Twitter or Facebook. But we did have King Ludwig’s Wall. My uncle’s Schönheitengalerie was really the who’s who of 19th Century tabloid dish, with mistresses, royals and gorgeous tarts all peering out through coquettish smirks.
Not that I wished to be in their number. Heaven forbid! Still, one cannot help but be a little put out by the public parade of those, who, er, put out.
There was that Italian slut, Floozi…I mean Florenzi, who kept King Ludwig happy for forty years. Then there was the British chick, Digby, who had her way with most of the Bavarian Royal Family. But of all my uncle’s lovers, none was as dangerous and beguiling as Lola Montez, who was single-handedly responsible for dethroning the randy ruler, and causing complete mayhem (Occupy Munich!) throughout Bavaria.
There is but one consolation for yours truly with all this wall business, and that is my wretched mother-in-law, meddler in all affairs, is forever immortalized amongst those tarty tarts. Even though she was, um, my Uncle’s sister (and, yes, that would make her my aunt), the Archduchess Sophie was thought of as a hottie, back in the day. But that was before she tossed her feminine whiles to the wind in favor of the good old fashioned ass-whipping style she became known for.
In answer to more and more frequent requests for my beauty secrets (as well as tips for gentlemen on the art of fascination), I here-to-for submit a collection of my top counsel, which will appear once a day over the course of the next ten days.
I must admit, however, that when it comes to this prescript, I have my mentor, Lola Montez to thank, as she taught me everything she knows, and much of my wisdom comes from this wondrous little book: The Arts of Beauty or Secrets of a Lady’s Toilet, penned approximately 150 years ago.
For the Ladies: Beauty of Deportment.
For a young girl to sit as grave and stiff as her grandmother cut in alabaster is bad enough. But not half as unseemly as that of a middle-aged woman who insists on romping about with the merriment of girlhood. Not only must a woman’s age be consulted, but her manners ought to harmonize with her shape and size.
Ladies, take a page from the book of vegetables. The poplar, the willow, the lily, they bend their gentle heads in the breeze as nature recommends. Whereas the steadfast oak and the boxwood hedge look best when displaying a majestic mien.
On to the gentlemen.
If you wish to make one of our sex tremendously in love with you, remember this: women prefer triflers to men of sense. In other words, practice making yourself as big an ass as possible, and you will find yourself rewarded for your efforts.
Your hope of complete success, then, lies in your ability to be a coxcomb, who has no earthly recommendation but his face, his coat, and his impudence.
Lola Montez was an Irish-born tart who passed for Spanish. She was a mediocre dancer and a whore of much renown, and she hastened the ousting of my Uncle Ludwig, who had the misfortune to, um, date her.
But all that aside, you have to admire her moxie.
Her legacy lives on, I’m somewhat amazed to report, in the following:
- A South African adult entertainment enterprise.
- A 1955 cult classic Max Ophuls film.
- As the subject in “sluts of all time” chronologies.
But of all the Homage du Lola, I am most supremely fascinated by the book penned in her own hand, namely, Arts of Beauty: Or Secrets of a Lady’s Toilet, With Hints to Gentlemen on the Art of Fascinating.
In this hundred-and-fifty-year-old how-to book, you’ll find all sorts of 19th century seductive secrets, including this one for getting rid of the gray:
Gather 10 grams of gallic acid, 1 ounce of acetic acid y 1 ounce of tincture of sesqui-chloride of iron. Dissolve the gallic acid in the tincture of sesqui-chloride of iron, and then add the acetic acid. Before using this preparation, the hair should be thoroughly washed with soap and water. The way to apply the compound is to dip the points of a fine tooth comb into it until the interstices are fill with the fluid, then gently draw the comb through the hair, commencing at the roots, till the dye has perceptibly taken effect. When the hair is entirely dry, oil and brushes (sic) it as usual.
The book contains, besides recipes and methods for all the aspects of the feminine beauty, some recommendations for gentlemen as well, but the real gem of her well-researched counsel lies in this passage:
Many women who can lay no claim to a beautiful face, have carried captive the hearts of plenty of men by the beauty of their form.
And by form, Lola means, naturally, T & A.
Ah. Well, it is the oldest profession, after all.
It has been noted that there are several parallels between myself and Lady Di. Most often reported is that we were both obsessed with our weight. Also, that we suffered from ill-treatment and the occasional shunning from our mothers-in-law (both women had their sons hangtied–what is the mother-son equivalent of pussy-whipped, anyway?). Also, we both died violent deaths, at the hand of another.
But on the subject of our husbands’ mistresses, well, there is a huge distinction. Namely, I was FOR the Emperor’s long-standing dalliance with the actress Katharina Schratt. In fact, I pushed the two together like chicken and dumplings!
Of course, it was different for Di. What with paparazzi constantly trying to humiliate her with clandestine snapshots of Charles and Camilla. The Princess considered the Prince’s affair an intrusion, calling Camilla “the third person in our marriage.”
My thoughts on a suitable mistress are a bit different. With discretion, the right concubine can ease household tension. Reduce the chore of frequent intimacies. Put a smile on a grumpy face. The thing is, though, the tart must know her place. She’s much like an extra lady-in-waiting, actually. Someone to help with household responsibilities.
In the end, I do thank Frau Schratt for all she did for my marriage. She was kind, unambitious and clean. What more could a wife want from her husband’s mistress?
It is no secret that we monarchs do not marry for love, and the Habsburgs are certainly no exception. Oh, sure, Franz Joseph and I had our pre-wedding crush on one another (as you know, I was a teenager, and fell in love with the idea of love, as teenagers do), but that soon faded, became stained, and crumbled to dust.
Do I sound bitter? No, I’m really not. I’ve made peace with my lot, as Franz has with his. Though the Emperor continued to idolize the notion of me, a few years into marriage off he went, like they all do, to find his greener pastures.
But I’m not here (for once) to belabor my own raw deal. Instead, I bring to you the legend that all Viennese children are taught to venerate. The one pure Austrian love story. No, it’s not Maria and Captain von Trapp, but you’re on the right track.
The union of Maria Theresa and Franz Stephan is thought to be the only dynastic Habsburg union where love thrived. Their profound fondness for each other blossomed with each of the sixteen babies they made (including, let’s not forget, the tragically disgraced Marie Antoinette). Can you imagine giving birth sixteen times and not going into Pavlovian paralysis at the sight of a frisky mate? I gave birth only a quarter as many times and the door was closed for good after the last one.
Maria Theresa is venerated as the ideal mother, a fertility icon, if you will. Her patience and good-heartedness are legendary, and she was tested quite a bit. Though Franz Stephan loved his wife, that didn’t stop him from taking multiple mistresses, but MT took it in stride. She had a feverish, sanctimonious, pious view on the role of a woman:
Women’s duty is resignation before God and one’s fellow human beings. The world does not dispense us from this duty. Women are always in the wrong, however their husbands may behave.
Enabling. Isn’t that what it’s called in today’s parlance? Resignation before God? Really? How freeing to embrace this mindset! How much easier one’s life would be if one could simply swallow the vomit and be done with it. And: “women are always in the wrong” stated completely without irony? Oh, dear, dear, Maria Theresa, how hard you made it for those who had to follow in your footsteps along the varnished and cold surfaces of Schönbrunn!
When it comes to bad behavior by husbands, I much prefer the reaction of the modern woman. But, alas, I lived over a century ago, before the invention of the 9-iron. Or even an automobile, for that matter!
Ah, the blogs. The tweets. The texts. So many forms of expression! No need for a go-between, these days, to deliver a sliver of wit, of inspiration. All right, I’ll just say it. A dollop of lust.
In the Hof, during my daily hairdressing sessions where I was attended to by coiffe -masters, Greek tutors, and my bevy of ladies-in-waiting, my mind turned to matters of the, er, heart. I cannot tell you how impossibly lonely it was for me at Court there in torpid Vienna! Always getting ready for some formal appointment with a snooty Viennese social climber or one of my mother-in-law’s sycophants. So whilst the brandy and egg yolk masques penetrated my tresses and the ground leeches and vinegar assaulted my freckles, I closed my eyes and returned to my homeland. And, naturally, thoughts of my homeland led to horses. And horses to counts, and, well, that’s when the trouble began!
Had I an instant communication device–a Blackberry a Droid–I might at least have been able to entertain myself–send a little quip to one of my sisters, perhaps. Or a randy little missive to my friend, the Hungarian Count Gyula Andrássy. I might have texted: Hair needs your expert attention. Please come.
Or I might have slipped off: Bodice heaving. Send help.
But, alas, I had to deliver my impulses the old fashioned way: through long, arduous, complicated and dangerous maneuvers which involved my dear Hungarian girl, Ida Ferenczy.
It was a brilliant stroke, I must say. Who could argue with an Empress’s need to expand her knowledge of language? Ida and I blathered on in our pig Latin way, under the auspices of tutelage. Sharp as a boning knife, and nearly as fast as an iPhone, Ida scribbled down my code in her native tongue–unable to be deciphered by the piggish herd of the Archduchess’s ladies-in-waiting–those nasty spies! Then, twice a fortnight, off she tarried, by coach, with my ream of poems in hand. Her perfect translation of my passion. Of my longing.
I awaited with much agitation for her arrival back to Court the following week when she would deliver a crisp square of parchment from the Count. Yes, the wait was torture. But how delicious when at last my red-cheeked Ida strode up with the letter! How I nearly ripped the thing open, gorged on the ripe sentences that returned my desire. You see, my le beau pendu was a political sensualist. Yes, yes, he was vain (as am I!), but no man could fill a uniform the way he could. He was, like me, less a monarch and more a romantic.
He did like his brandy, his cards and anything in a dirndl–but his image, what with the tiger fur he favored, the gems sewed into his jacket, kept me from dissolving under many a leech-masque, and kept my imagination simmering long after the burner in my marriage turned off.
No, not my sister, Helene. I’m speaking of Helene Sedlmayr, the toymaker and pretender of virtue. Just look at her falsely chaste gaze! Her innocent countenance! She fooled many a trusting wife as she descended upon countless noblemens’ houses, her arms filled with playthings as she masqueraded as Mother Santa Claus.
The real story is this: she earned a pittance as a toymaker, and discovered that her great beauty and enviously slender waist could fetch much more than her marionettes! The little harlot had quite the supplemental income, before and after her marriage to my uncle’s valet.
Odd, I surmised quite smartly (if I do say so myself), that Frau Sedlmayr bore ten children, many of whom sported Uncle Ludwig’s signature red tresses!
Quite a lovely girl, though, I must admit. You may see for yourself, should you visit Munich and take a little trip to the infamous Gallery of Beauties.