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- Did they get Mata Hari wrong? | World news | The Guardian
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AmazonGlobal Ship Orders Internationally. Amazon Inspire Digital Educational Resources. Amazon Rapids Fun stories for kids on the go. Amazon Restaurants Food delivery from local restaurants. ComiXology Thousands of Digital Comics. MacLeod was legally required to pay support , which he never did, making life very difficult for Zelle and her daughter. During a visit of Jeanne with her father, MacLeod decided not to return Jeanne to her mother.
Zelle did not have resources to fight the situation and accepted it, believing that while McLeod had been an abusive husband, he had always been a good father. Jeanne later died at the age of 21, also possibly from complications relating to syphilis.
In , Zelle moved to Paris , where she performed as a circus horse rider using the name Lady MacLeod, much to the disapproval of the Dutch MacLeods. Struggling to earn a living, she also posed as an artist's model. By , Mata Hari began to win fame as an exotic dancer. She was a contemporary of dancers Isadora Duncan and Ruth St. Denis , leaders in the early modern dance movement, which around the turn of the 20th century looked to Asia and Egypt for artistic inspiration. Critics would later write about this and other such movements within the context of Orientalism. Gabriel Astruc became her personal booking agent.
She posed as a Javanese princess of priestly Hindu birth, pretending to have been immersed in the art of sacred Indian dance since childhood. She was photographed numerous times during this period, nude or nearly so. Some of these pictures were obtained by MacLeod and strengthened his case in keeping custody of their daughter. Mata Hari brought a carefree provocative style to the stage in her act, which garnered wide acclaim. The most celebrated segment of her act was her progressive shedding of clothing until she wore just a jeweled bra and some ornaments upon her arms and head.
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She wore a bodystocking for her performances that was similar in color to her own skin. Although Mata Hari's claims about her origins were fictitious, it was very common for entertainers of her era to invent colorful stories about their origins as part of the show.
Did they get Mata Hari wrong?
Her act was successful because it elevated exotic dance to a more respectable status and so broke new ground in a style of entertainment for which Paris was later to become world-famous. Her style and free-willed attitude made her a popular woman, as did her eagerness to perform in exotic and revealing clothing. She posed for provocative photos and mingled in wealthy circles.
Since most Europeans at the time were unfamiliar with the Dutch East Indies, Mata Hari was thought of as exotic, and it was assumed her claims were genuine. One evidently enthused French journalist wrote in a Paris newspaper that Mata Hari was "so feline, extremely feminine, majestically tragic, the thousand curves and movements of her body trembling in a thousand rhythms.
By about , myriad imitators had arisen. Critics began to opine that the success and dazzling features of the popular Mata Hari were due to cheap exhibitionism and lacked artistic merit. Although she continued to schedule important social events throughout Europe, she was held in disdain by serious cultural institutions as a dancer who did not know how to dance. Mata Hari's career went into decline after On 13 March , she performed in what would be the last show of her career. However, by this time she had become a successful courtesan , known more for her sensuality and eroticism than for her beauty.
She had relationships with high-ranking military officers, politicians, and others in influential positions in many countries. Her relationships and liaisons with powerful men frequently took her across international borders. Prior to World War I , she was generally viewed as an artist and a free-spirited bohemian , but as war approached, she began to be seen by some as a wanton and promiscuous woman , and perhaps a dangerous seductress.
During World War I , the Netherlands remained neutral. As a Dutch subject, Zelle was thus able to cross national borders freely. To avoid the battlefields, she travelled between France and the Netherlands via Spain and Britain , and her movements inevitably attracted attention. During the war, Zelle was involved in what was described as a very intense romantic-sexual relationship with a Russian pilot serving with the French, the twenty-five year old Captain Vadim Maslov, whom she called the love of her life. In the summer of , Maslov was shot down and badly wounded during a dogfight with the Germans, losing his sight in both eyes, which led Zelle to ask for permission to visit her wounded lover at the hospital where he was staying near the front.
In November , she was travelling by steamer from Spain when her ship called at the British port of Falmouth. There she was arrested and brought to London where she was interrogated at length by Sir Basil Thomson , Assistant Commissioner at New Scotland Yard in charge of counter-espionage. Initially detained in Cannon Street police station, she was then released and stayed at the Savoy Hotel. In January , Major Kalle transmitted radio messages to Berlin describing the helpful activities of a German spy code-named H, whose biography so closely matched Zelle's that it was patently obvious that Agent H could only be Mata Hari.
The messages were in a code that German intelligence knew had already been broken by the French, suggesting that the messages were contrived to have Zelle arrested by the French. General Walter Nicolai , the chief IC intelligence officer of the German Army, had grown very annoyed that Mata Hari had provided him with no intelligence worthy of the name, instead selling the Germans mere Paris gossip about the sex lives of French politicians and generals, and decided to terminate her employment by exposing her as a German spy to the French.
Five were suspected of submitting fake material and working for the Germans, while the sixth was suspected of being a double agent for Germany and France. Two weeks after Mata Hari had left Paris for a trip to Madrid, the double agent was executed by the Germans, while the five others continued their operations. This development served as proof to the Second Bureau that the names of the six spies had been communicated by Mata Hari to the Germans.
She was put on trial on 24 July, accused of spying for Germany, and consequently causing the deaths of at least 50, soldiers. Although the French and British intelligence suspected her of spying for Germany, neither could produce definite evidence against her. Supposedly secret ink was found in her room, which was incriminating evidence in that period. She contended that it was part of her makeup. Zelle's principal interrogator was Captain Pierre Bouchardon, the man who was to prosecute her at her trial, who grilled her relentlessly.
Zelle admitted to Bouchardon that she had accepted 20, francs from a German diplomat in the Netherlands to spy on France, but insisted she only passed on to the Germans trivial information as her loyalty was entirely to her adopted nation, France. In , France had been badly shaken by the Great Mutinies of the French Army in the spring of following the failure of the Nivelle Offensive together with a huge strike wave, and at the time, many believed that France might simply collapse as a result of war exhaustion.
In July , a new government under Georges Clemenceau , aka " le tigre ", had come into power, utterly committed to winning the war. In this context, having one German spy for whom everything that went wrong with the war so far could be blamed was most convenient for the French government, making Mata Hari the perfect scapegoat, which explains why the case against her received maximum publicity in the French press, and led to her importance in the war being greatly exaggerated. Zelle wrote several letters to the Dutch Ambassador in Paris, claiming her innocence.
Because I really did not spy, it is terrible that I cannot defend myself". Mata Hari herself admitted under interrogation to taking money to work as a German spy. It is contended by some historians that Mata Hari may have merely accepted money from the Germans without actually carrying out any spy duties. In October , documents released from the archives of MI5 British counter-intelligence were used by a Dutch group, the Mata Hari Foundation, to ask the French government to exonerate Zelle as they argued that the MI5 files proved she was not guilty of the charges she was convicted of.
Maybe she wasn't entirely innocent, but it seems clear she wasn't the master-spy whose information sent thousands of soldiers to their deaths, as has been claimed". Zelle was executed by a firing squad of 12 French Soldiers just before dawn on 15 October She defiantly blew a kiss to the firing squad. A New Yorker article reported that at her execution she wore "a neat Amazonian tailored suit, especially made for the occasion, and a pair of new white gloves"  though another account indicates she wore the same suit, low-cut blouse and tricorn hat ensemble which had been picked out by her accusers for her to wear at trial, and which was still the only full, clean outfit which she had in prison.
Wales recorded her death, saying that after the volley of shots rang out, "Slowly, inertly, she settled to her knees, her head up always, and without the slightest change of expression on her face. For the fraction of a second it seemed she tottered there, on her knees, gazing directly at those who had taken her life. Then she fell backward, bending at the waist, with her legs doubled up beneath her. Mata Hari's body was not claimed by any family members and was accordingly used for medical study. Her head was embalmed and kept in the Museum of Anatomy in Paris.
In , archivists discovered that it had disappeared, possibly as early as , according to curator Roger Saban, when the museum had been relocated. Mata Hari's sealed trial and related other documents were scheduled to be declassified by the French Army in , one hundred years after her execution. The Frisian museum Dutch: Included in the exhibit are two of her personal scrapbooks and an oriental rug embroidered with the footsteps of her fan dance.