Mata Hari, Margaretha Geertruida Zelle's real name, was born in the Dutch city of Leeuwarden 7 August 1876. She was the only daughter and second child in a family of four children by Adam Selle and Antje van der Meulen. The father of the future spy was the owner of a hat shop. In addition, he managed to make successful and effective investments in the oil industry, so he became a wealthy man who did not stint on education for his children. Before 13, Margareta attended only the upper class schools. But in 1889, Adam Zelle went bankrupt and soon after that he divorced his wife, who died in 1891. So the family was completely destroyed. After the death of his mother, his father sent Margaret to her godfather in the small town of Sneek. Then she continued her studies in Leiden, where she received the profession of kindergarten teacher, but when the director of the local school began to flirt openly with the girl, her insulted godfather took her from this school. A few months later, the girl left Sneek for her uncle in The Hague. According to another version, it was Margareta who became the culprit of the scandal with the principal of the school, having accepted his courtship, the town community did not forgive the young girl for frivolous behavior, and her early departure was connected with this.
The dramatic changes in the girl's life led to the fact that in 1895, she met an ad with 39-year-old captain Rudolf Mac-Leod a Dutchman of Scottish origin and almost immediately married him. At that time, Margaret was just 18 years old. What exactly prompted the girl to such a hasty step hard to say. Perhaps it was due to the fact that she did not have sufficient livelihoods, so she decided to marry a wealthy person. She could also strive for a calm and measured life that she had in her childhood.
Margaret Gertrude Zelle, roughly 1895 year
After the wedding, the newly-married couple moved to the island of Java (then it was the Dutch East Indies, today Indonesia). Here they had two children - a son and a daughter, but their family life obviously did not develop, it was impossible to call her happy. Margaret’s husband turned out to be an alcoholic who behaved rather aggressively with his wife and often raised his hands to her, besides, he openly maintained his mistresses. In the end, this life began to lead and Margaret, who did not sit at home, as it was supposed to be a decent wife, and had fun at the local officers' receptions, often this caused family scandals. Disappointed with his wife, she moved to live with another Dutch officer, Van Redes.
For a long time, Margareta studied Indonesian traditions, in particular, worked in a local dance group. In 1897, for the first time in her correspondence, she called herself the artistic pseudonym of Mata Hari (literally from Malay “eye of the day” or more simply - the sun). After long and persuasive persuasion, the girl returned home to her rightful spouse, but his aggressive behavior remained the same. Therefore, trying to distract and forget the hated family life, Mata Hari continued to explore the local culture and traditions.
In 1898, Margaret's cheese died at the age of two. It is believed that he died from complications of syphilis, which was transmitted to him from his parents. In this case, the couple themselves claimed that he was poisoned by a servant. In any case, their family life finally collapsed. After returning back to Holland, the couple divorced, it happened in 1903 year. At the same time, Rudolph sued his wife's right to raise a daughter, who died in August 1919 of the year at the age of 21 of the year. The alleged cause and death were complications of syphilis. In any case, the death of her son and the collapse of family life were a serious test for Margaret, who, after returning to Europe, was left without a means of livelihood, feeling real poverty.
For work, she decided to go to Paris. In the capital of France, she first acted as a circus rider, choosing for herself the name "Lady Gresha Mac-Leod." Loud fame came to her in 1905 year, when she became famous throughout Europe as an oriental dancer, then she began performing under the pseudonym Mata Hari, under this name she was forever and made history. Part of her dancing was something very close to modern striptease, which was still an unusual phenomenon for a Western audience of the 20th century. Often at the end of the number, which was performed on the stage in front of a narrow circle of connoisseurs, it remained almost completely naked. Mata Hari herself said that she reproduces real sacred dances of the East, which allegedly were familiar to her from childhood. She in every way mystified her interlocutors with various stories of romantic orientation. For example, she told that she is a real princess - the daughter of King Edward VII and the Indian princess, that she has a horse that allows herself to be saddled only by the mistress, that she spent her childhood in the East and was brought up in a monastery and other stories that created the necessary mysteriously romantic background. It is worth noting that Mata Hari, as they say, has found its niche, at the beginning of the 20th century, Europe experienced a great interest in everything that was connected with the East and ballet, as well as erotica. Mata Hari's great success in Paris soon spread to other European capitals.
European newspapers wrote about her: "This naked dancer is the new Salome, who makes any men lose their heads." She herself said this about herself: “I never knew how to dance well, people came to watch me in droves just because I was the first who dared to appear naked to the public”. It is worth noting that often she danced a really naked. Unlike Isadora Duncan, who appeared in transparent robes, Mata Hari performed completely naked. On her rather seductive body, there was nothing but ornaments and accessories that covered her breasts.
Soon she began to enjoy her fame and glory and began to win numerous rich fans. One of them was a French rich man who invited Mata Hari to speak at the Museum of Oriental Art. Her photos captivated most of the male population of the Old World, over time she became a very successful courtesan and consisted of numerous high-ranking politicians, military and other influential people in different European countries, including France and Germany. Later biographers estimate that she had more than a hundred different lovers.
She often did expensive gifts, but despite this she experienced financial difficulties and quite often borrowed money. It is believed that one of her passions was card games, which could have been spent large sums of money. Before the start of World War I, Mata Hari met a German police officer. Some researchers believe that at that moment she came into the sight of the German special services. In 1911, the famous Milan's La Scala Opera House engaged Mato Hari for the winter season. At the same time, she even negotiated with Sergei Dyagilev at the expense of performances in his ballet, but they ended in nothing. In the summer season of 1913, she performed in the French capital at the Folies Bergere theater, and on March 23 1914 signed a contract with the Metropol theater in Berlin, she was to perform in the ballet “The Thief of Millions”. The premiere of the ballet was scheduled for September 1 1914, but a month before that date World War I broke out.
6 August 1914, the dancer left Berlin for Switzerland. However, she was denied entry to this country, while her luggage managed to cross the border in a freight car. Mata Hari was forced to return to the capital of Germany, where she went to her homeland - to the Netherlands. In Amsterdam, she found herself in a rather difficult situation, as she had lost all her belongings before. Mutual friends introduced her to the consul Karl Kramer, who led the official German information service in Amsterdam. Under the roof of this service was hiding one of the divisions of German intelligence. By the end of the fall of 1915, German intelligence finally recruited Mata Hari, who could move freely throughout Europe as a citizen of a neutral country. The first task for her was to find out in Paris the immediate plans for an Allied offensive. In December 1915, Mata Hari arrived in France, where she began to fulfill this mission.
From Paris, they went to Spain, this trip was also of an intelligence nature. 12 January 1916, she arrived in Madrid, where she contacted the military attaché of the German Embassy, Major Kalle. The latter immediately ordered the transfer of the information received to the consul Krameru in Amsterdam. This encryption was intercepted by British intelligence. After meeting with Kalle in Madrid, Mata Hari returned to The Hague through Portugal. Being a Dutch national, she could drive home and back from France, but the countries at that time were separated by a front line, so usually her way was through Spain and the UK. Over time, her movements attracted the attention of counterintelligence Allies.
Mata Hari in 1915 year
Once again, returning to Paris in the second half of 1916, Mata Hari found out that a person close to her - Staff Captain Vadim Maslov, after being wounded at Verdun, is undergoing treatment at the Vittel resort located in the forbidden front-line zone. Vadim Maslov was an officer in the Russian expeditionary corps, he was two times younger than her, but he also wanted to marry her. In order to get to her lover, Mata Hari turned for help to the French military authorities, who set the condition for her: to obtain secret information from her high-ranking German acquaintances. And she agreed to these conditions, becoming, in fact, a double agent.
Early next year, the French sent her on an insignificant mission to Madrid, where the Allies' suspicions of her spying for Germany were finally confirmed. The German agent’s radio exchange in Madrid was again intercepted with the center, which included the H-21 agent recruited by the French, who arrived in Spain and received a task from the local German station to return to Paris again. Perhaps the Germans specifically declassified Mata Hari, because they wanted to get rid of the double agent, passing it off to the enemy. Anyway, on the morning of February 13 1917, Mata Hari was arrested in Paris on espionage charges. She was placed in Faubourg Saint Denis Prison in Saint Lazare. Interrogations of the alleged spy continued for four months, the last 21 taking place on June 1917 of the year. At the same time, the woman insisted that she worked solely in the interests of France and in Madrid lured important information from Major Calle. The trial of Mata Hari began on July 24 of the year 1917 and was held in private. The very next day, Margaret Gertrude Zelle was sentenced to death. The appeals filed by her lawyer and appeals for pardon to the French President led to nothing. 15 October 1917, the death sentence was carried out.
After the shooting, the body of Mata Hari was not claimed by any of her relatives, for this reason he was transferred to the anatomical theater. So her head was embalmed and preserved in the Paris Anatomy Museum. But in 2000, it turned out that the head was missing. According to experts, the loss occurred even earlier - in 1954, when the museum was relocated. In any case, this episode only added mysticism and mystery to the already rather complicated story of the life of Mata Hari.
Mata Hari on her arrest day, February 13 1917
Today, some historians believe that the harm from the activities of Mata Hari (her effectiveness as a scout) was seriously embellished. The information actually obtained by it (if it existed at all) was hardly valuable for the howling parties. According to historian E. B. Chernyak, the death sentence could have been influenced not by the espionage activity of Mata Hari, but by her connections with representatives of the French political and military elite. The danger of disclosing information about these connections, the fear of giving them wide publicity and could affect the speedy imposition of the death penalty.
Possessing a number of undisputed talents and rich imagination, Mata Hari played the role of a high-society spy. She played it from beginning to end: to the charges, the trial and the death penalty. All this fit perfectly into her “cinematic” biography of an exotic dancer of oriental dances, a femme fatale and a spy, ensuring her greater fame than other, much more effective scouts of her time.
Summing up, we can say that Mata Hari has become one of the most famous women of the 20th century. Having lived all 41 year, she was able to go down in history, forever writing in her name. The biography of this woman, the history and description of her life, the photographs that have survived to this day are still the subject of increased attention from not only numerous historians (both professionals and amateurs), but also the most ordinary people all over the world.
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