Mata Hari : biography
On the 7th of August in 1876 in the Netherlandian town Leeuwarden a girl, who was destined to have a very stormy life and world-wide fame of a great spy, was born. She is known all over the world as Mata Hari, but her parents, Adam Zelle and Antjie van der Meulen, named the girl Margaret Gertruda. Margaret’s father owned hatter’s shop and at one time successfully deposited money in oil industry, that’s why got a possibility to keep his children well – besides daughter, he had four sons.
Adam Zelle’s children studied in schools for higher society till 1889, and then he became a bankrupt. Soon Adam divorced with his wife. Antjie Zelle died three years later, and Adam settled daughter in a college of town Leiden. The girl by that time had turned into an outstanding beauty, and the director of the college paid her not pedagogical attention. Obviously, it was Margaret’s fault, because father immediately sent her to The Hague, where the girl’s aunt, a very strict person, settled her in a school of a women’s monastery.
At the age of eighteen Margaret finished her education and dreamt about one thing – to get rid of the strict relative’s tutelage. The only possibility to realize this dream at that time was marriage. The girl started to look over marriage notices in newspapers and answered at one of them. A potential groom, a thirty eight years old army captain Rudolf McLeod placed this advertisement for fun, but when he saw Margaret he really decided to marry. Their wedding took place in July of 1895 and turned out to be very unsuccessful. After two years of life in Holland and the birth of a son Normann McLeods went to Java – a new place of Rudolf’s work. Margaret gave birth to a daughter Janna-Luisa there, and their family life ended. Rudolf turned out to be a big lover of alcohol, was unfaithful to his wife and blamed her in all problems. Margaret was disappointed in her husband, left him and started to live with another officer. She became keen on dancing, which she saw in Indonesian temples. At that time she mentioned a stage name Mata Hari, which she had chosen for dancing, in a letter to relatives (in Malayan it means “the eye of dawn”).
Her husband persuaded Margaret to return to him, but he didn’t change his behaviour, and she continued flirting in order to seek oblivion, studying Indonesian culture and exotic dances at the same time. In 1899 their two years old son Normann died. Some time later the family returned to the motherland, where in 1903 Margaret and Rudolf divorced. Her husband managed to reserve a right to bring up his daughter. Margaret became utterly beggarly and went to Paris, hoping to become an artist’s model. Bt she found a very different job – she became a horsewoman in a school of horse riding of a famous circus. A director of the circus soon advised her to try her Asian dances.
Margaret’s debut as a dancer took place in winter of 1905, in a Russian singer’s salon. Visitors of a charitable evening welcomed an exotic beautiful woman with delight. Margaret’s talent was really outstanding – newspapers wrote that she could enchant the public even without moving. One of the big admirers of Mata Hari was a very rich manufacturer mister Guimet, who built a famous museum, devoted to Asian art. He set Margaret in his museum, and in March of 1905 she appeared in public in the eastern costume, and her dance was close to modern striptease – by the end of it the dancer, who was presented as Mata Hari, left only bracelets and strings of pearls on her body. Paris was conquered – in that year Mata Hari fro thirty years danced in its most chic salons, including Rothschild’s mansion. Practically nobody knew about her real biography – Margaret liked mystify interlocutors, telling about her royal origin or bringing up in a Tibetian monastery.
In winter of 1906 she went on a tour for the first time, getting an engagement for two weeks in the Spanish capital. Then she went to French Riviera, because she got an invitation to dance in a ballet by the opera “Monte-Carlo”. Even Puccini sent Mataa Hari flowers. In August she went to Berlin, where started an affair with Alfred Kipert, a rich landowner. At the end of 1906 she danced in Vienna. But at the church’s insistence, striptease was slightly innobled – Margaret started to wear tightly tricot under the clothes. Only a year later she returned in Paris, leaving her German lover. She was rich, and her fame competed with fame of an American dancer Isadora Duncan.
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