Tag Archives: History

Charlotte Corday (1768-1793) – Angel Assassin – Historical Femme Fatale


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Charlotte Corday

Marie-Anne Charlotte de Corday d’Armont was an average girl, born to a minor aristocratic family in France. At a very young age she lost her mother and older sister to one of the fatal illness of the era. Her father, not able to cope with loss, sent Charlotte and her younger sister to live in a convent in Caen, France, know as the Abbey of Sainte-Trinite. There she was raised by nuns surrounded by classical writings, and grew up into a very intelligent and educated young lady. It was during this time that she discovered great political and philosophical writings from some of our history’s masters: Plutarch, Rousseau and Voltaire…

After her time in the convent, she went on to live with her cousin, Madame Le Coustellier de Bretteville-Gouville. The two women became very close and the greatest friends.

During her young adulthood, the French Revolution was ongoing. What started out as a Revolution had now spun out of control into an age of terror. There were two sides of the revolutionaries: the Girondins (moderates) and the Montagnards (radicals). Charlotte sympathized with the moderate revolutionaries and was revolted by the radicals. She especially detested the Jacobin (Montagnard) leader, Jean-Paul Marat. Montagnards supported the radicalized idea that those who did not support their cause should be brutally executed and eliminated. There really was no middle ground with them. Girondins sought to cease the violence that had been spreading throughout France and avoid civil war. Charlotte was even against the execution of the King Louis XVI. Regardless that she was a revolutionary herself, she felt the execution and murder of the aristocracy was inhumane and barbaric. She also vehemently believed that her country, with the instigation of Marat, was headed toward a bloody civil war. She saw him as an enemy of the Republic and decided he must be stopped at all costs.

Charlotte left the home of her cousin and traveled to Paris (where Marat would be) and took a room at the Hotel de Providence. She wrote her “Addresse aux Français Amis des Lois et de la Paix (Address to the French people, friends of Law and Peace) to explain her motives for assassinating Marat. Then, armed with a kitchen knife from her home, she ventured over to Marat’s residence claiming to have information about a Girondin uprising. She was at first turned away. She was probably told Marat was indisposed at the moment. He had some kind of celiac skin condition. The condition was extremely itchy and even burning. It is known that Marat took bath treatments for this condition. He even conducted business and held meetings from his bathtub.

Charlotte was admitted to the presence of Marat during one such treatment on her second visit, so he could listen to the information she claimed to have. It was during this meeting that Charlotte stabbed Marat directly into his chest. He was able to yell out and Charlotte was apprehended taken away by members of his household, but it was too late. The petite, childlike, seemingly innocent girl managed to deliver a fatal blow in her first and only stab. Marat died.

On trial for murder, Charlotte said, “I knew that he, Marat, was perverting France. I have killed one man to save a hundred thousand.” She was sentenced and executed by guillotine.

Charlotte Corday, changed the role and view of women as revolutionaries. In a way she contributed to the feminist movement that was steadily on the rise. She showed every man in France that women too can be active revolutionaries, have strong opinions, and take action and fight against what they deemed injustices. Women were beginning to not to be seen as the weak, meek, unopinionated, malleable, and insignificant. She was seen as either a Heroine by some (men and women alike), or an abomination of her sex.


Charlotte never married and was even examined after death and found to be virgo intacta. Physicians had been called to examine her, because it was speculated that she probably had a lover who manipulated her to commit such a “unfeminine” crime. Women were not capable of being cold blooded assassins… Well, they were and are. An innocent virgin girl with the face of an angle assassinated a Jacobin leader like it was nothing. So she was known as the “Angel of Assassination.”

Charlotte Corday has been portrayed many times… in novels, plays, operas, and even mentioned or memorialized by other characters in some productions. Wouldn’t it be great to see a modern film about her?



Irene of Athens (c.752-803) – The Woman Emperor of the Byzantines – Isaurian Dynasty – Historical Femme Fatale


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Irene of Athens, also known as Irene Sarantapechaina, started off early in life as a penniless orphan. When her parents died she was adopted or taken in by the patriarch of her house, the general, Constantine Sarantapechos. It was thanks to him that she made such a great marriage.

When she was about 16 or 17 years old, she was summoned to Constantinople to enter a “bride show.” Back in those days, all the single beauties of the Empire were called to the capital to be paraded in front of the Emperor or heir with the hopes of becoming the new Empress. In Irene’s case she was being inspected as a possible bride for Constantine V’s son, Leo. Finding a bride for Leo was quite the task and he seemed more interested in God, than women. It was the Emperor who chose Irene for his uninterested son, in the hopes that her great beauty would at least interest him into making some babies to inherit the Empire one day. And boy did Irene have her work cut out for her! She did eventually give birth to one child, a son, named Constantine.

Constantinople (what is now Istanbul) to this day is considered one the world’s most beautiful cities. In Irene’s time, it must have been THE most beautiful city in the world. Also, a strange religious revolution was going on, in what was known as Iconoclasm. Irene’s father-in-law, the Emperor of the Byzantium Empire, had declared all icons and prayers to the Saints heresy, punishable by death. Those who disapproved of icons and saints were called iconoclasts, and those who preferred icons and respected and venerated saints were called iconophiles. Irene, brought up in Greek Christian Orthodoxy was a iconophile. Irene’s husband, Leo was a iconoclasts, just like his father.

When Constantine V died, Iconophiles wasted no time in proclaiming it divine intervention. Leo IV was now Emperor and Irene Empress Consort. Although Leo was also a Iconoclasts, he seemed more moderate than his father. At least in the beginning.

Irene and her son’s position soon became very unstable. It is believed that after having one male child, Leo turned away from his wife and became obsessed with religion again. It is even speculated or rumored that Leo found icons hidden among the Empresses things, after which he scorned her and refused to sleep with her again. (I guess people will come up with all kinds of excuses in order to preserve the dignity and male vanity of what should be a powerful and vigorous man. However, it is common knowledge that Leo also came down with tuberculosis around this time. Being seriously ill may have affected his libido as well.

It was because of Leo’s illness that Irene had reason to panic. Her son was an infant and her husband had two strong adult half brother’s who had their eyes on their brother’s throne. There was just some relief when Leo publicly proclaimed his son, Constantine VI as Caesar, and his successor. Irene may have had some influence on this, as she would have wanted to secure her son’s position, given the delicate health of her husband. These were times when usurpers were very ruthless and usually executed their rivals without a second thought, regardless if they were family. As important as this decision was, Leo was a pretty weak Emperor and had a forgiving nature. When it was discovered that his half brothers were conspiring and committing treason against him, despite the opinions of his advisers and his Empress, he chose to spare their lives and not execute them. He did not even exile them, but fully pardoned them. This was seen as huge mistake by most people and made him appear to be a weak and ineffectual ruler.

Leo IV died of tuberculosis when Constantine VI was just 9 years old. Irene immediately took action and the regency, ruling for her young son. The half brothers of Leo wasted no time in trying to usurp the throne, so Irene took immediate action. Punishment was harsh, swift, and calculated. She had both of her half brother-in-laws ordained as priests. This made them ineligible to ascend the throne all the rest of their days. At the same time, it made her seem benevolent and merciful enough for which she gained the love and respect of many.

Irene proved to be a skilled diplomat and a strong force to reckoned with. She negotiated alliances with the power Carolingian dynasty and the Papacy, ended iconoclasm, put down rebellions, and constantly defended the Empire against the Abbasids throughout her reign.

As capable and apt as she was, a regency was not permanent, and women were typically not allowed or deemed fit to rule. Constantine grew up and began to assert himself and demand the throne that was rightfully his. He had tried to end the regency and force his mother to step down, but he was always defeated by her. She was powerful and a good ruler, so she had a lot of political power and support. He had very little. However, Irene grew too arrogant and overconfident. She believed most people preferred her to her son, as she was doing so well. They did not, because she was a woman. She made the mistake of trying make all the Lords and the military swear an oath of fidelity to her alone. She was immediately removed from power and her son was officially sole ruler. Her regency ended.

Irene was upset, but her son allowed her to keep her title as Empress as a courtesy. It was not long until Constantine VI would prove incapable of ruling effectively. Not only was he defeated by the Arabs and Bulgarians, but his Uncle (one of the half brother’s of his father) was gaining momentum as a more preferred leader. Constantine responded by having his Uncle blinded, and all his other uncles tongues cut out. These handicaps made them especially barred from ever ascending the throne. He also shocked the Empire by divorcing his wife who had yet to produce an heir, and marrying his mistress.

Pretty much Irene just bid her time and waited for her son to screw up and make enemies out of everyone… Which he did. When Constantine lost all friends and allies, Irene cunningly made her move (for the good of the Empire of course). She conspired to remove her son from power. He was captured and blinded and Irene was then officially crowned the first ever Empress Regent of the Byzantines, as her son was incapable of ruling alone. Constantine then disappears and no one knows exactly when he dies. Many historians believe he probably died from his wounds shortly after being blinded. (His death was probably kept secret as long as possible for Irene to consolidate her power.) After this event, even though Irene still used the title Empress, at times she would refer to herself as “Emperor.”

Empress Irene is one of the more ruthless and cunning Historical Femme Fatales, as it is an actual historic fact that she blinded her own son in order to rule in his stead.


Irene had just one child…

Constantine VI, Emperor of Byzantium (771- before 805)

Eadburh (c.787- c.802) – The Widow of Wessex – House of Iclingas – Historical Femme Fatale


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Eadburh was an Anglo-Saxon Queen, who is said to have been such a nightmare that no more Anglo-Saxon women were honored with the title thereafter (until the daughter of Charles the Bald was crowned Queen Consort of Wessex). She was supposedly so bad that Anglo-Saxon Queen Consorts were not even allowed to sit next to their King while enthroned. She is also accredited for giving men a reason to be prejudice against female rulers in that region.

Eadburh was the daughter of the most powerful King of the time, Offa of Mercia. Her mother was Offa’s wife, Queen Cynethryth. Offa gave Eadburh to Beorthric, King of Wessex, in order to form an alliance and wield influence over this Kingdom. Eadburh was known to be a beauty of her time, and had many suitors throughout her life, but she was also known as a very strong personality. She is believed by many to be an agent of her father who served his interests. Some historians believe she may have easily controlled Beorthric.

Eadburgh had such influence that she could have people she disliked executed or exiled, and that she sometimes even resorted to murder. She probably disliked having to compete for control and influence over her husband. It is believed that she had one of her husband’s favorites murdered- that she tried to poison the favorite, but ended up accidentally poisoning her husband too. After her husband’s death, she fled to Francia.

What is interesting is that the exiled King of Wessex, who was supplanted by Eadburh’s husband, returned to Wessex from Francia to rule, as Eadburh fled to Francia to seek some type of asylum with the King of the Franks, and Holy Roman Emperor, Charlemagne. She could not return home, since her father and brother had died by this time. It is said that Charlemagne became smitten with the beautiful widow, but that she soon offended him. The story goes, that Charlemagne joked with her, asking who she would prefer to marry, himself or his son, Charles the Younger. Eadburh’s father had actually already offered one of his daughters (one of Eadburh’s sisters) for Charles the Younger, but Charlemagne refused.

Eadburgh perhaps did not get the joke, because she said she preferred to be married to the son. Charlemagne infamously retorted, “Had you chose me, you could have had both, but since you chose him, you can have neither!” Then he named her abbess of a convent and she had no option really but to accept. A woman of passion, this kind of life did not satisfy Eadburh, so she took up an intimate relationship with a Saxon. When it was discovered, Charlemagne had her expelled from the convent and exiled.

She ended her days as beggar in Pavia, where her her final resting place is.


Eadburh did not give birth to any children.

Lucrezia Borgia (1480-1519) – The Daughter of Rome – House of Borja – Historical Femme Fatale


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Lucrezia Borgia

The Borgia Dynasty is probably one of the most infamous families in the history of the renaissance era. The Patriarch of this family was one of the most powerful men in the world of this time, Rodrigo Borgia – Pope Alexander VI. Pope Alexander is remembered and even respected as a shrewd politician and leader, even though he is one of the most controversial Popes in all of history. Most of this controversy stems from the fact that Pope Alexander had mistresses and children, then strategically placed his children in key positions of power in order to obtain and retain this power. Popes (let alone any ordained clergy member) of the Roman Catholic church were forbidden to marry and required to remain chaste. It is true that many did not follow such orders. One of the reasons is that most clergy of this era entered into this calling because it was expected of them, by their family. Many did not actually volunteer. This was very true among nobility. Peasants as well, as they often entered the Church because it was a way for them to possibly move up in the world. During these days, most did not become a priest because they sincerely felt the calling to become one. The Borgia Pope was no different. The Spanish House of Borgia would grow in power too much, making them many deadly enemies in Italy.

Lucrezia Borgia, Duchess of Ferrara, Modena, and Reggio, was born to Rodrigo Borgia when he was but the Cardinal-Bishop of Albano, and to his mistress, the beauty, Vannozza dei Canttanei. Cardinal Borgia openly claimed to be the father of the first four of Vannozza’s children: Cardinal Cesare Borgia, Duke of Valentinois; Giovanni Borgia, 2nd Duke of Gandia; Lucrezia; and Gioffre Borgia, Prince of Squillace and Duke of Alvito. She also had a half brother that was fathered by one of her mother’s arranged decoy marriages.

Lucrezia was the only daughter of her Pope father, so she was the only real bargaining tool he had. He had sons of course, but these sons offered benefit to their wives and their families. Lucrezia, as was the Western tradition, could bring benefit to her family by forging very strong political alliances. She was a very important pawn to her family surely. Also, marriage with her was very desirable for any eligible bachelor among the world’s nobility. Her father was the Pope. The Pope could make and unmake Kings in several ways. He could crown them, and he could deny a heirless King an annulment and end a dynasty. Having the Pope on your side, was the desire of nearly every European King at the time. Also, we can not ignore the fact that Lucrezia Borgia was a beauty. She was known as one of the greatest beauties of her time. Fair, healthy, and gentle… She was also a known intellect, whom had the greatest tutors and the most extensive educations any noble “woman” could ever dream to receive. No doubt her family valued her and esteemed her. She was a world renown administrator, and even Vatican business was entrusted to her.

The first marriage she entered to benefit her family was with Giovanni Sforza d’Aragona, Lord of Pesaro and Gradara, an illegitimate son of Costanzo I Sforza. Because Constanzo had no legitimate children with his wife, Giovanni succeeded him as his heir to his fortune and titles. It was a great match for Lucrezia, whom was illegitimate herself, and the alliance with the powerful Sforza family of Milan, who actually helped Borgia win the Papacy, seemed very beneficial at the time. Poor Lucrezia was just twelve years old when she married Sforza, though her marriage contract stipulated she would stay in Rome and the marriage would not be consummated until she was thirteen.

About two years passed when Lucrezia lived with Giovanni as his wife when it was discovered that Sofrza was not going to prove beneficial to the Pope. It was even believed that he was acting as a spy for the Sforza Milanos. So, the Pope and Cardinal Cesare Borgia began to plot the dissolution of Lucrezia’s marriage. The Pope began to desire other alliances, with more beneficial families. Cesare was forced into the church and had become a Cardinal after his father became Pope, so he could not marry at that time. Giovanni, Duke of Gandia, was being saved for a royal marriage, and young Gioffre, as well would probably wed a royal, though he was really young. All hopes mainly rested with Lucrezia.

The Pope petitioned to annul the marriage of his daughter and Sforza. The fact that they lived together as man and wife for a couple of years was a challenge, but since Lucrezia never conceived, it was not impossible. The Pope had Lucrezia testify that her marriage was never consummated and that she remained “in virgo intacta” (a virgin intact). Many historians find this highly unlikely by the end of the two years, as she would have been around fifteen, and of the common age for marriage and marital relations of the times… But since there was no child, it was easy to claim. Sforza was accused of impotence, a huge insult and embarrassing accusation. This pretty much insulted his manhood and made many of the Sforzas enemies of the Pope and the Borgia family. Since the Sforzas were one of Italy’s most powerful and leading families, this was not a small thing.

It was after these accusations, and the annulment, that rumors began to circulate that the Pope himself had an unnatural and incestuous relationship with his daughter, Lucrezia. It was also rumored that Lucrezia and her brother Cesare were lovers as well. Most modern historians discredit these rumors and accusations, because they only arose from Giovanni Sfroza after the insult to his virility and his disgrace. This has not stopped fiction writers and TV producers from indulging these rumors as historic fact though, which shows really bad taste to be honest. Sure the Borgia Pope was a ruthless, cut throat, shady politician… and even a lecher for he had numerous mistresses, but this kind of accusation is really vile and unfounded. But you would not expect anything less from ones enemies. The Sforza family put the pressure on Giovanni to admit to the impotency and “just move on for now,” which he eventually did.

Now that Lucrezia was a free woman, and officially declared a virgin, she was back in the game. Her family could use her again to their advantage, except for one minor problem. Lucrezia was pregnant. The Borgia family continued to deny that Lucrezia was pregnant or had been, let alone that Sfroza was the father. They tried to cover it up by sending Lucrezia to a convent to have the baby. This only fueled the rumors that Cesare could possibly be the father of his sister’s child. Then rumors emerged that the child was fathered by a servant of the Pope’s. No one may ever know who fathered this child, but it is most likely that the child was Sfroza’s. They furthermore tried to cover up about the child by claiming the child was Cesare’s by an unknown mistress. The child was also claimed in another Papal bull to be the Pope’s son. People were kinder to bastards of men then they were of bastards of women. It was not such a bad thing for a man to father illegitimate children, but it was a huge ordeal for a woman to do so. One thing was for certain, the Borgia’s would not want Lucrezia to have such an awful reputation, as it would harm her prospects of making an advantageous alliance for the family. One can see how such crazy rumors existed and were used against the Borgia family. It is not surprising in the least.

Lucrezia’s second marriage was to Alfonso of Aragon, Duke of Bisceglie and Prince of Salerno (the illegitimate son of Alfonso II King of Naples). This husband was mysteriously murdered; some say by Cesare, as Cesare (and the Pope it is assumed as well) allied with the French against Naples. The interesting thing is, Pope Alexander wanted Cesare to marry the King of Naples’s legitimate daughter and heir, but the royal princess refused to accept a illegitimate son of a Pope as a husband (which is pretty understandable for many reasons). So the King of Naples offered his illegitimate son to the Pope’s illegitimate daughter. A more reasonable match.

Anyway, the murder of Alfonso got rid of the Borgia’s Naples alliance in favor of a much more desired French one. Also, Lucrezia was free to be married off again. The next alliance the Pope sought was with Duke of Ferrara, Modena and Reggio. This was the most significant marriage for Lucrezia. An arranged and fully political marriage, both husband and wife indulged in many extramarital affairs. Lucrezia herself was known to have three lovers during this marriage. No historian can say that their marriage was unhappy, but the couple seemed to have a mutual respect for each other and some kind of understanding. Lucrezia was esteemed as a well governing Duchess and entrusted with governing the Duchy when her husband was away. She proved to be a great governess. They had 8 known children.

Lucrezia, like many women of this age, took a great risk for every pregnancy they endured and every child they gave birth to. Childbirth complications and childbed fever was the leading cause of death among women of these times. Since Western noble women were expected to have baby after baby, not even able to take a rest for a couple of years and nurse their own babies, women’s health suffered greatly in these times. Also, western men could only be married to one woman, and often until death. She alone had to bare all the legitimate heirs. Lucrezia’s end was quite common. She died, along with her 10th  or 11th child, after giving birth, of puerperal fever (childbed fever).


Lucrezia gave birth to 10 (possibly 11) children. It is said that her first child may have been the illegitimate child that Cesare Borgia claimed as his by an unknown lover, and that this child’s birth was covered up by the family. Some rumors were that it was Lucrezia and her brother’s child; others were that it was a servants child. Most historians suspect it was Giovanni Sforzas child (her first husband).

Giovanni Borgia, Infans Romanus/Infant of Rome (1498-1548)

With her second husband, Alfonso De Colabria (Alfonso of Aragon), Duke of Bisceglie, Prince of Salerno it is believed she possibly had one child that was miscarried or stillborn. It is also documented that she had another:

Rodrigo of Aragon (Little Rodrigo), Duke of Bisceglie and Sermoneta (1499-1512)

With her third husband, Alfonso d’Este, Duke of Ferrara, Modena and Reggio, she gave birth to 8 known children:

A stillborn daughter (1502)
Alessandro d’Este (1507), died shortly after birth.
Ercole II d’Este, Duke of Ferrara, Modena and Reggio (1508-1559)
Cardinal Ippolito II d’Este/Archbishop of Milan (1509-1572)
Alessandro d’Este (1514–1516)
Sister Eleonora d’Este (1515-1575)
Francesco d’Este, Marquess of Massalombarda (1516–1578)
Isabella Maria d’Este (1519), died shortly after birth.

Lucrezia Borgia has been portrayed on TV many times and sadly, most portrayals paint her as a bad person. The likely truth is that she was used as a pawn by her family, like most high born girls were, and that she was more a victim than a villain. One of the more recent portrayal is in the TV series called “The Borgias,” and stars Jeremy Irons as Pope Alexander. There is also another BBC TV series by the same title too. I prefer Irons as Pope Alexander, as well as the other actors, so I like this one more. Both can be seen on Netflix.


Nitocris (? Possibly Myth) – The Soul of Re is Divine – 6th Dynasty – Historical Femme Fatale


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Nitocris, whose name means “The Soul of Re is Divine,” is a Queen of Egypt that is shrouded in mystery and myth. Ancient historians are not reliable when it comes to facts. The first historian to ever mention Nitocris was Manetho, an Ancient Egyptian Priest and historian from the Ptolemaic/Hellenistic era. He lived in the early 3rd Century BC, and Nitocris supposedly lived in the late 2100s BC. That is a long stretch between his era and hers. Pretty much his accounts, if bearing any weight at all, would be mainly based on myth and/or legend. There has been no other proofs uncovered that such a Queen existed. If She did exist, Nitocris would not only have been the first known Egyptian Queen/Female Pharaoh, but she would have been the first known Queen in the world.

Manetho does not give us much information about Nitocris, but he dates her during and after the reign of a 6th Dynasty Pharaoh, Netjerkare Siptah, who was the last ruler of the Old Kingdom. It is assumed that Nitocris was probably Netjerkare Siptah’s sister and wife. No wives or children of Netjerkare Siptah’s have been documented, but we do know that Netjerkare’s reign was very short. Just three years.

Manetho,  who wrote a history of Egypt called “Aegyptiaca,” describes Nitocris as, “braver than all the men of her time, the most beautiful of all women, fair-skinned with red cheeks.” I am not sure what is meant by “fair” in this context. Even considering ancient  Egyptians were very diversified, being such a huge Empire for so long, I tend to suspect that in the earlier eras, they were mostly dark skinned, much like their Nubian Ancestors. Also, Manetho never set eyes on Nitocris, regardless if she was a real person. I think some people get confused with the shades of skin colors of Ancient Egyptians, as most of their paintings have faded over time. The earlier Ancient Egyptian art shows people with more African features, so it seems more likely, and can be assumed, that many had different shades of darker skin as well.

Herodotus, an ancient Greek historian, also mentions Nitocris. But everyone knows that Herodotus’s histories are very liberal and more like stories of myths and legends. He paints a interesting picture of this Femme Fatale Queen. According to him, Nitocris’s husband was murdered by his officials. Nitocris seized the throne briefly in order to take her revenge upon them.

She invited them to an official banquet, celebrating her ascension, as she would not have done so without their killing her husband. The banquet was held in a lower chamber in the palace. Unbeknownst to the honored guests, Nitocris had installed a special aqueduct system that would carry the Nile waters into the lower chamber of the palace. After her guests were quite full and drunk, she slipped away. Then she had the chamber sealed and the Nile waters flooded the room, drowning the murderers of her husband and brother. After they were all dead, she then committed suicide.

It is a very interesting tale and if there is any truth to at all, than Nitocris definitely has earned her place among the Historical Femme Fatales.


Nitocris or Netjerkare Siptah had no known children.

Margaretha Geertruida “Margreet” Zelle (1876-1917) – Mata Hari the Eye of the Dawn – Historical Femme Fatale


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Mata Hari

Born Margaretha Geertruida “Margreet” Zelle, this Dutch born exotic dancer and courtesan would be accused of being a double spy during WWI, convicted of treason, and executed by firing squad.

Margreet was born into and ordinary family in the Netherlands and would have had a pretty ordinary life, however, something inside Margreet probably longed for a life of danger and excitement. When a Dutch Colonial Army Captain Rudolf MacLeod whom was living in the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia) put an ad in the paper that he was looking for a wife, Margreet answered. After the marriage took place they moved to the island of Java.

Even though Margreet’s marriage was a disaster, as her husband was an abusive alcoholic, her time on this Island and her familiarity with Javanese culture, and her study of Indonesian traditional dance, gave her the means to weave a fantasy and give herself an exotic background for who she would become. Eventually, Margreet would escape her violent husband, but life of a divorced woman and single mother was hard in those days. After her son died, and when her ex husband kept custody of her daughter, Margreet started work as circus performer on horses, and also posing as a nude art model.

In 1905, Margreet started to gain fame as an oriental exotic dancer. She had already been using the stage name Mata Hari, which meant Eye of the Dawn in Javanese, and she told every one she met that she was a Javanese Princess from the Dutch West Indies. As most people did not know much about the island of Java, its culture, and its people, this added to her exoticism and allure.

Mata Hari was only an exotic dancer for a rather short time, even though she became widely recognized. She was older when she began this career, so she quickly moved on to courtesan (an expensive prostitute). This is when she began having sexual affairs with several different high ranking military men. After her arrest for being a double agent, even her own accounts on how she began spying for the French was probably just as colorful as those of her ethnic origins. She claimed that her lover, a Russian pilot in the French Air Force was wounded, and the only way she could see him was to agree to spy on the Germans for the French. It’s probably more likely that since the Dutch were neutral in the war, she got around and slept with military soldiers on both sides in order to cash in and exploit the situation as much as possible. She probably had no true loyalty to either side and started gossiping and running her mouth about one as she slept with the other.

No one knows for sure if Mata Hari was really a double spy or just a foolish harlot. What is known is that she was revealed as such by the French and she must have made someone angry. Some believe that the French used her as a scapegoat to blame for so many lost lived during the war. Perhaps she just slept with the wrong men who wanted to silence her. Mata Hari told so many tales during her life that it was unclear if she was even telling the whole truth about spying, as she was simply ignorant enough to tell lies just make herself seem more interesting or exciting. Unfortunately this did not do her any favors. She was convicted of treason and was executed by a French firing squad by twelve French officer on 15 October 1917.


Mata Hari had two children with her husband Rudolf John MacLeod. A son, Adam Zelle, who died of illness as a child… and a daughter, Antje, who died in her 20s of an illness.

Mata Hari has be portrayed in countless films. The newest is a Russian TV series titled “Mata Hari.” This one is now showing on Amazon Prime Video.

History of Architecture – Shotgun House


Shotgun House

The shotgun house was the popular and average style of house in the United States since the Civil War and into the Great Depression. Shotgun style homes have a unique layout. They are narrow and only about 12 feet wide. Length of houses varied as house taxes were determined by the width of your house (how much house was facing the street) and not how long or deep your house was. Also, in a shotgun house, each room is directly behind the other room. Most would be laid out with a porch and the Living/Sitting room in the front, the bedroom next, then followed by the Kitchen and small bathroom in the corner. Many of these house still survive in Louisiana, especially in the New Orleans French Quarter.

How did the shotgun house get it’s name? Well traditionally all the doors of the house align so that if you open the front door, the room doors, and the rear door, you could shoot a shotgun through the house into the front and out the rear end (or vice versa). However there are some houses that have misaligned doors and the reasoning behind this has its roots buried in superstition and folklore. At the time, the belief in ghosts were wide spread. It was believed that ghosts were attracted to shogun houses, as they could pass quickly and directly through them. (Apparently post Civil War ghost were polite and had impeccable manners, as they did not travel through walls.) Due to this belief, you can find many old shotgun houses with misaligned doors, although the oldest ones tend to have aligned doors.