Gilbert, Marie Dolores Eliza Rosanna (DNB00)

GILBERT, MARIE DOLORES ELIZA ROSANNA (1818–1861), dancer and adventuress, known by her stage name of Lola Montez, was born at Limerick in 1818. Her father, Edward Gilbert, was gazetted an ensign in the 44th foot on 10 Oct. 1822, and proceeding to India joined his regiment and died of cholera at Dinapore in 1825. He had married a Miss Oliver, a lady who had Spanish blood in her veins, and she very soon after her husband's death married a Captain Craigie. In 1826 Marie Gilbert was sent from India to Scotland to be educated under the care of some of Captain Craigie's relatives at Montrose. Her further education took place in Paris, and on its completion she went to Bath, where her mother was then residing. To avoid a marriage with an old man, Sir Abraham Lumley, she ran away to Ireland with Captain Thomas James, and on 23 July 1837 married him at Meath under the name of ‘Rosa Anna Gilbert, spinster.’ Her husband held a commission in the 21st regiment of Bengal native foot, and on his returning to his duties she accompanied him to India. She returned to England early in 1842, and on 15 Dec. in that year her husband obtained in the consistory court, London, an order for a divorce, by reason of her having committed adultery with a Mr. Lennox while on the voyage home. The case is entitled James v. James (Times, 16 Dec. 1842, p. 6; Morning Herald, 16 Dec. 1842, p. 6). She then studied the dramatic art under Miss Fanny Kelly, but showing more promise as a dancer, she was instructed for four months by a Spanish teacher, and after a short visit to Spain made her début at Her Majesty's Theatre, London, under Benjamin Lumley's management, on 3 June 1843, as ‘Lola Montez, Spanish dancer,’ but being badly received did not again make her appearance (You have heard of them, by Q., 1854, pp. 98–106; Era, 11 June, 1843, p. 5). In the ‘Era’ of 18 June 1843, pp. 5–6, there is a letter from her denying that she was an Englishwoman, and stating that she was born in Seville, but it is to be observed, in contradiction of this assertion, that when she came on the stage the occupants of the omnibus-box immediately cried out, ‘Why, there is Betty James.’ An opening was made for her at the Royal Theatre, Dresden, where, and at Berlin, her success in the rôle of a Spanish dancer was considerable. From Berlin she proceeded to Warsaw, where she associated herself with the Polish party, and was in consequence ordered to quit the country; but she was notwithstanding well received at St. Petersburg by the emperor Nicholas, and became the recipient of many costly presents. She was afterwards in Paris, where she was very intimate with Dujarier, editor of ‘La Presse,’ who was killed in a duel with Beauvallon on 11 March 1845. This duel made a great sensation, and led to a celebrated trial at Rouen, when Alexandre Dumas, herself, and other celebrities appeared as witnesses (Larousse, Grand Dictionnaire, vi. 1365–6; American Law Journal, Philadelphia, July 1848, pp. 1–9). In 1847 she appeared as a dancer at Munich, and completely captivated the old king of Bavaria, Ludwig Carl Augustus. Five days after her appearance she was officially introduced at court, when the king said: ‘Gentlemen, I present to you my best friend.’ On 7 March 1847 she was naturalised by a royal ordinance, and then letters patent named her successively Baronne de Rosenthal and Comtesse de Lansfeld. The king also accorded her a pension of twenty thousand florins, and built for her a splendid mansion. Her abilities were considerable, she had a strong will and a grasp of circumstances, her disposition was generous, and her sympathies large. She exercised marvellous fascination over sovereigns and ministers. She now ruled the kingdom of Bavaria, and, singular to say, ruled it with wisdom and ability. Her audacity confounded alike the policy of the jesuits and of Metternich. Through her influence the ultramontane D'Abel ministry, which had held office for ten years, was dismissed, and another cabinet, under Prince Wallenstein, a man of liberal tendencies, was brought into power (Times, 2, 8, 9, 12, 18 March 1847). In the ‘Times’ of the last-mentioned date is a letter from her from ‘Munich, 11 March,’ giving her own version of the state of affairs in Bavaria, and in the same paper of 9 April is another letter stating that she was born in Spain, was called Lola Montez, and had never been known by any other name. The influences of Austria and of the jesuits were, however, at work against the favourite, and a free distribution of money aided in turning public opinion against her. She accorded her patronage to an association of students called the Alemannen, who held liberal principles. On 9 Feb. 1848 a fight took place between the Alemannen and the conservative students, and in an émeute which followed Lola's life was in danger. On 18 March, owing to the continued hostility of the students, she caused the university to be closed by a royal decree; but an insurrection took place, she was banished from the kingdom, and the king was forced to abdicate on 21 March. She at first had expectations of being recalled, and, dressed as a boy, ventured to return to the neighbourhood of Munich in hopes of meeting the king, but finding no security in the country she fled to Berne (Mola Lontes oder Tanz und Weltgeschichte, Leipzig, 1847; Lola Montez und die Jesuiten;;, von Dr. Paul Erdmann, Hamburg, 1847; Anfang und Ende der Lola Montez in Bayern, München, 1848, and another edition, München, 1848; Illustrated London