'A woman who has sufficient intellect to render herself of independent mind ought also to be able to assume the quills of a porcupine in self-defence.' Wildcat and temptress with a mind as sharp as her tongue, the nineteenth-century adventuress, Lola Montez, followed her own advice and became, after Queen Victoria, the most famous woman in the Western world. Born Eliza Gilbert in 1821 to an Ensign in the British Army and his cold Irish wife, she faced a life of misery when her mother arranged a marriage to an elderly man whom she had never met. She fled and became notorious in London society. When it turned against her, she used her looks and the craze for Spanish dancing to re-invent herself as Lola, the widow of a Spanish hero killed in the Civil War. She set out to conquer Europe. Then the King of Bavaria fell for her charms and the stage was set for a scandal that would change the course of history.
Published: 23 March 2012
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