Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace


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Tuesday, June 2, 2015


Welcome back to History Undressed our regular first Tuesday blogger, Kathleen Bittner Roth! Today she's written a fascinating post for us about a Spanish dancer. Enjoy!

Lola Montez


by Kathleen Bittner Roth

While writing Celine, book one in my When Hearts Dare series, I had a scene where the hero and heroine clashed over another woman. The woman couldn’t be anyone they knew. I wanted someone who stood out above all others and thought nothing of brazenly making a play for the hero. The name Lola Montez popped into my mind. I vaguely recalled the name and thought she was some kind of famous Spanish dancer (I was right). I had no idea if she’d ever been to America, let alone New Orleans, or if she’d even lived during the time period of my story (1853). Since I was writing a first draft, I figured I would do the research later and find the right woman to fit my story. To my utter surprise, not only had Lola Montez toured America, she’d passed through New Orleans one time only—the very month and year I had written her into my story! 

Lola as a dancer
So who was this mysterious lady that caused so much trouble between my hero, heroine, and the hero’s cousin? It didn’t take long into research to learn that this Spanish dancer was no more Spanish than was the Queen of England.

Lola Montez was a stage name for Maria Eliza Gilbert, the Countess of Landsfeld! 

How did this woman, born in Ireland in 1821, become an exotic dancer and courtesan? And titled?

Lola, or Eliza, as they called her in her youth, was barely two-years-old when her father, an army ensign, was dispatched to India and took his family along. He died of cholera shortly thereafter. Lola’s mother quickly remarried. Lola’s stepfather adored her, spoiled her, and let her run wild in the streets of India. She became such a handful, she was sent to her stepfather’s family in Scotland, but they couldn’t control the wild little girl from India, so they sent her to an Aunt in England. Hot tempered, uninhibite
d Lola was soon sent to a private boarding school.

At sixteen, Lola eloped and ended up back in India, where, five years later, the couple separated. That’s when Mrs. Eliza James changed her name to Lola Montez and became a popular Spanish dancer. Unfortunately, she was recognized and a scandal ensued which prevented her from returning to England.

Scandal wasn’t about to stop this feisty woman now known for her beauty and quick temper. She departed Calcutta for the Continent where she became a courtesan. In Paris, she met and had an affair with the famous Hungarian composer, Franz Liszt, who introduced her to not only a Bohemian life but to other men, one of which was Alexandre Dumas with whom she carried on a torrid affair while still the mistress of a high-profile newspaper man. When he died, Lola left Paris for Munich.

Not long after, Lola became the mistress of King Ludwig I of Bavaria. He was so smitten with her that he gave her the title Countess of Landsfeld, and granted her a large annuity, much to the chagrin of the King’s people. From 1846 to 1848, Lola seemed to be the power behind the throne until the King abdicated and Lola fled Bavaria for England.

Once again, she married, but the terms of her divorce from her first husband did not allow remarriage so the newlyweds left England for Spain where her husband allegedly drowned. Alone, Lola sailed to the U.S. where she became popular as a dancer and actress from 1851 to 1853, exactly when I needed her for my story! That year, Lola Montez left the U.S. to perform in Australia, where she married yet again, only to be divorced yet again. Finally, she returned to the U.S. where she passed away at age thirty-nine in Brooklyn, New York in 1861.

If you’re a writer of historical romance reading this account of a scandalous Lola Montez, don’t let anyone tell you that ladies of that era would not do or act in certain ways. Throughout history there were always those who defied society’s rules and danced to their own tune. Lola Montez, Countess Landsfeld was one of those women.

Kathleen Bittner Roth thrives on creating passionate stories featuring characters who are forced to draw on their strength of spirit to overcome adversity and find unending love. Her own fairy tale wedding in a Scottish castle led her to her current residence in Budapest, Hungary, considered one of Europe’s most romantic cities. However, she still keeps one boot firmly in Texas and the other in her home state of Minnesota. A member of Romance Writers of America®, she was a finalist in the prestigious Golden Heart® contest. Find Kathleen on Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, Pinterest and www.kathleenbittnerroth.com.

Check out Kathleen's list of books on Amazon!


Jean Michelle Miernik said...

What a fabulous story! Your last words are on point. Truth is so much more interesting than cliches and stereotypes. I've found writing my own historical fiction that the more research I do, the more interesting my story becomes--because the possibilities of what could actually happen in that time and place open up. Thanks for sharing Lola's amazing life story!

Anonymous said...

Wow, better than fiction!!!


Kathleen Bittner Roth said...

Thanks, ladies! I couldn't get everything in, but I thought it interesting that when she was sent to Scotland at the age of ten, she'd think nothing of running down the street naked, so that's when she got shipped to England and finally to a private boarding school with a high wall. I like reading about women who skirted the edge of society's demands.

Beppie Harrison said...

Knew the name, but not the history. What a woman she must have been! I imagine there were more than one or two men who were relieved when she died and some crimson history could be safely forgotten.

Averil said...

What a great post! I, too, keep hearing that women of that era wouldn't do this, that, or the other thing. Yet, here's a perfect example of a woman who danced to the beat of her own drum, to coin a clichéd expression. I'm sure that if authors can imagine it, history can often support it if we look hard enough. Thanks for the reminder that truth is often stranger than fiction. (cliché intended!)

Kay Hudson said...

Great story, Kathleen. What a lot of adventure to pack into thirty-nine years!