>I was at the Munich City Museum last week, and came across large portraits of King Ludwig I of Bavaria, and of Eliza Gilbert, better known to the world as the “Spanish dancer” Lola Montez. A mistress of Ludwig’s who led to his eventual abdication, I first thought of her as a sort of 19th-century Monica Lewinsky, but she was a bit more — imagine Clinton having an affair with, say, Madonna.
Born in Ireland, raised in India, schooled in England, Ms. Gilbert was not known for being a well-behaved little girl. After a short-lived marriage to an Englishman (which went under in Calcutta,) she wafted around bohemian Paris for a while, and had an affair with Franz Liszt. After the death of another lover she moved to Munich and hit it off with King Ludwig, who made her “Countess of Landsfeld” as a birthday present to himself. Her presence in his life fed the mounting opposition to his rule, and in 1848 he stepped down in order to stave off a revolution.
Lola fled Bavaria for Switzerland, hoping Ludwig would follow her. When he didn’t, she went to London, re-married (scandalously, as it violated the terms of her divorce, and they had to leave England), and eventually split again for the USA. After more adventures in California and Australia, in ill health, she lived out her last days in New York, and died at the age of 42. She’s buried in the Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.