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Lola Montez

Lola Montez,(Dolores Eliza Gilbert) (1818-1861) Born into an Irish family, but of uncertain parentage, she won fame as a dancer and adventuress. She took a Spanish name to enhance her professional image as an Andalusian-Moorish dancer. After continental successes on stage and in the hearts of numerous admirers, she arrived in Munich in 1846 where she captured another heart, that of the 61-year-old King of Bavaria, Ludwig I, who was himself both an eccentric monarch and a notorious ladies' man. Lavish in his expenditures on art, including his well known Gallery of Beauties, Ludwig was thrifty elsewhere. His taxes and reactionary policies had caused discontent among his subjects as early as 1830. His low salaries for civil servants did not endear him to this essential segment of Bavaria's population. Montez attempted to use her influence with the king to change government policy and to improve her own position in the kingdom. Her first interference in Bavarian politics was to plead for higher salaries for teachers. Such action on the part of a foreign woman was viewed with suspicion by conservatives. Although both Ludwig I and Lola Montez maintained that the relationship was platonic, the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic church and the conservative Catholic ministers under Karl von Abel opposed her. Her liberal leanings antagonized this group as well. Ludwig wanted Montez made a Bavarian citizen so that he could confer upon her the title of countess. The conservative government refused the king's request and resigned in 1847. The new government, the first in Bavaria to be headed by a Protestant, was more liberal and agreed to the king's request. Lola Montez became the Countess of Landsfeld and the Protestant ministry began a reform of the justice administration and the curriculum of the University of Munich; among the measure was the dismissal of professors who had supported Abel, making support of Lola Montez a political issue at the University of Munich. Conservative professors, who had been dismissed by the new liberal government, and their students opposed her. Others formed a special corps, the Alemannia, to defend her honor. The students opposing Montez petitioned to disband the Alemannia in February 1848. The ensuing student riots caused led Ludwig to close the university, which in turn enraged the Munich populace, already unfavorable of Lola Montez. The livelihood of many depended upon student spending, so Ludwig was pressured to reopen the university and to dissolve the Alemannia. Despite the departure of Lola Montez on February 12, 1848 for Switzerland, Bavarian citizens demanded more reforms, and, on March 6, the King granted a free press and ministerial responsibility. This was not enough to appease the growing opposition, and Ludwig's final gesture was abdication in favor of his son Maximilian. Ludwig's friendship with the liberal Lola had proven to be the last straw for the long-suffering Bavarians, who had found his behavior over the years unseemly for the monarch of a Catholic kingdom. The revolution in Bavaria was exceptional for Germany in 1848 in that a conservative government was returned and the liberals expelled. But elsewhere in Germany, Liberalism did not have to defend its association with a woman having the liberal personal reputation of a Lola Montez. The exiled Countess of Landsfeld spent her repentant final years in the United States and died at the age of forth-three in Astoria, New York.
Marie Wagener


Lola Montez Memoiren Kerstin Wilhelms ed. (Frankfurt: 1986).

Erich Pottendorf Lola Montez: Die spanische Taenzerin (Zurich, Vienna, Leipzig: Amalthea Verlag, 1955).

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