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Monday, June 4, 2018

The Differences of Research data: Mata Hari by Katherine Pym


Mata Hari clothed

This was a fairly popular post a few years ago so I thought I'd share it again. As an author of historical fiction, I spend a lot of time researching. Usually, my research centers on London in the 1660’s. Once and awhile, though, I run across some information that doesn’t center around my time of expertise, but find it too interesting not to share.

NOTE: The source I am using differs from most, especially Margaretha’s early life but it is too interesting to ignore. I will let you decide which to take home to your family by making clear the variances in the below text.

Mata Hari was born on August 7, 1876 as Margaretha Geetruida Zelle in Holland. Her parents were religious; she grew up Roman Catholic and was sent to a convent at the early age of 14. 

Other sources say:

Her mother dead and her adored father bankrupt, teenaged Margaretha was sent to train as a kindergarten teacher, only to be seduced by the headmaster.” And another source: “Following her mother's death, Mata Hari and her three brothers were split up and sent to live with various relatives.”

At 18 while on holiday in The Hague, Margaretha met a Scotsman named MacLeod and married him. He was a drunk and wife abuser. He did, well you know, the typical things brutal men do to women so I won’t bore you with them. Other sources say: “Disgraced and bored, the girl answered a newspaper ad to meet and marry a career colonial officer twenty years her senior who would be soon returning to the Dutch East Indies.” My source continues: He took her to Java where he continued his savagery plus he was a bounder and unfaithful.

No longer a wide-eyed, postulant schoolgirl, the experience caused Margaretha to deviate from her chaste background. She studied books in the art of sensual love performed in Buddhist temples. She was also introduced to the evocative ritual dances that eventually made her so popular. (Some sources don’t mention this at all.)

Usually, life takes strange turns we never expect. Margaretha endured the savagery of MacLeod, studied sensual love—it’s not recorded if she used this on him or anyone else for that matter while in Java—as her husband gadded about with other women. Some were jealous he was married. One was their nurse who took care of Margaretha & MacLeod’s young son. MacLeod rejected her and in revenge the nurse poisoned their son. Another source: “The marriage dissolved in a nightmare of drinking, gambling, and vicious hatred following the death of their son...”

From now on, I will continue with my source.

Margaretha emerged from this a changed woman. She never showed outward emotion but went forth in life with a face etched in steel. She hated men and she hated MacLeod whom she blamed for the death of their son. Without remorse she reportedly strangled the nurse.

Back in Europe, Margaretha lead a life of the narcissistic.

In France, Margaretha became Mata Hari, a woman born in “...India within the sacred caste of Brahma”. After the birth of two children, her body wasn’t the svelte one of her youth, but that did not stop her from performing naked on stage in Paris. She spoke in a soft, seductive voice and danced erotic dances, some graceful, others lewd, only before seen in Buddhist temples. 
Full Figured Mata Hari
She was a sensation throughout Europe. Men begged to have her in their beds. She would oblige them for no less than $7,500 a night. Her lovers listed in the Who’s Who of the times; prime ministers, princes, high up men in their governments.  She demanded luxurious apartments in Paris, had milk baths to keep her skin young and supple. When her influential lovers lost their money, she would kick them to the curb and take another.

She enjoyed sex and would visit brothels (probably not for $7,500) even as she hated the men who bedded her, using them for her gain. She was vain, self-indulgent, cruel and ripe to be approached by the Germans. They sent her to spy-school in Lorrach and gave her what is now known as a pre-war code number.

Mata Hari was relentless. She slept with men then betrayed them. She learned of their plans and sent those plans to the Germans. The figures speak for themselves. It was declared by the judge at her trial she was considered responsible for the deaths of 50,000 allied troops but this number seems trivialized. Other sources say the number is closer to 100,000.

In the end, the Germans betrayed Mata Hari, but she did not think she would die. Too many of her lovers told her of their plans for her escape. When those failed, it was suggested she plea pregnancy, but by now realizing her doom was fixed, Mata Hari refused to see the doctor. 

Mata Hari before the firing squad (one source)
Vincennes: At the age of 41, Mata Hari was taken to a young tree stripped naked of limbs and leaves and tied to it with a red ropes. She refused the blindfold, did not wince or show emotion when the firing squad cocked their rifles. Several of her lovers watched from the sidelines, some perhaps part of the squad.

She did not utter a sound, but smiled when the major barked the final command to fire. Mata Hari, once a postulant in a convent, her name Margaretha Geetruida Zelle died at 5:47 AM on October 15, 1917, a hated and loved legend of her time.

Many thanks to:
Main source: The People’s Almanac by David Wallechinsky & Irving Wallace, Doubleday & Co., Inc., Garden City, NY, 1975.

All pictures come from WikiCommons Public Domain: his media file is in the public domain in the United States. This applies to U.S. works where the copyright has expired, often because its first publication occurred prior to January 1, 1923. See this page for further explanation.

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