"Little Mrs James."

"The King dotes on her, his courtiers and ministers hate her but go in fear and trembling, the students worship her. For luxury and extravagance there has been nothing like her since La Pompadour, they say. Why, sir, she is the nine-day wonder!" - "Well, well," says I. "Little Mrs James." (George MacDonald Fraser, "Royal Flash")

17 January 1861: Today, 152 years ago, Lola Montez, Countess of Landsfeld, née Eliza Rosanna Gilbert of Grange, Co Sligo, died of pneumonia at the age of 39 in New York.

Joseph Karl Stieler (1781 - 1858): "Lola Montez" (1847),
painted for King Ludwig I of Bavaria's "Schönheitsgallerie" (Gallery of Beauty)
at Schloss Nymphenburg in Munich

After the unsuccessful marriage to a Captain James, Betsy, posing as the Andalusian dancer Lola Montez, first in London, then in Paris and Warsaw, where she had a rather disturbing effect on artists like Liszt and Dumas as well as royalty, she finally landed in Munich where she turned the head of King Ludwig I of Bavaria.

Betsy James became his mistress and caused quite a rift in Bavarian policy on the eve of the revolution of 1848, since the amounts of money Ludwig spend on his Lola did not help much to raise her popularity with the Bavarian people and neither did the flocks of bright young men who flocked to her apartment, begging for political favours. She had her guard of honour from one of the Munich student corporations (a schlagende Verbindung, Corps Palatia München) who admired her, though. And while she walked her Great Dane Turk through Munich, smoking cigars and being courted by the jeunesse dorée, ennobling her for her "benefactions to the people", creating her Gräfin (Countess) Landsfeld and naturalising her as a Bavarian finally did it for the good people of Munich. In February 1848 a downright riot forced Betsy to flee Munich and Ludwig I to abdicate.

She tried to make a comeback afterwards in London, failed, toured Australia and finally ended up in New York, where she made a living by giving beauty advice for ladies and campaigning to aid fallen women.

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