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Mata Hari Birth Anniversary: Interesting Facts About the Original Femme Fatale

Mata Hari was an exotic dancer and courtesan who was convicted of being a spy for Germany during World War I and executed by firing squad in France

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Updated:August 7, 2019, 11:05 AM IST
Mata Hari Birth Anniversary: Interesting Facts About the Original Femme Fatale
Image of Mata Hari, courtesy of Instagram

The idea of an exotic dancer working as a double agent, using her powers of seduction to extract information related to the military has turned Mata Hari as an archetype of the femme fatale.

Born on August 7, 1876, Margaretha Geertruida "Margreet" MacLeod or Mata Hari, the Dutch exotic dancer and courtesan who was convicted of being a spy for Germany during World War I and executed by firing squad in France has proven to be an inspiration for numerous cinematic adaptation, books, play and even a 2019 song "Eye of the Day" by English singer/songwriter Frank Turner.

On her 143rd birth anniversary, here's looking at interesting facts about the original femme fatale.

-- While Mata Hari had an affluent childhood, owing to her father’s flourishing hat business and investment in oil, it was short lived. Her father went bankrupt in 1889 and her parents got divorced. On top of it all her mother passed away in 1891.

-- Mata Hari married Captain Rudolf Macleod in 1895, at the age of 19, when the former had advertised for a wife in a newspaper. Macleod was a Dutch colonial Army captain stationed in Dutch East Indies.

-- Mata Hari and Captain Macleod did not have a happy marriage either, eventually divorcing in 1906. The couple had two children. Norman-John was born in 1897 and Louise Jeanne was born in 1898. Her son died in 1899, while her daughter passed away at the age of 21.

-- In 1905, Mata Hari turned towards exotic dancing and became an overnight success in Paris.

-- Mata Hari pretended to be a Javanese princess and enthralled her audience with her slender body and flirtatious dance moves.

-- She performed her last exotic dance in March 1915 after which she became a courtesan.

-- During World War I, Mata Hari’s constant travel between European countries placed her under suspicion and in 1916 she was arrested and was questioned about being a spy.

-- In 1917, the German military referred to a German spy with the code name H-21, who had a lot of similarities to Mata Hari. The French intelligence assumed it was her and had her arrested.

Mata Hari was executed by the French firing squad on October 15, 1917 at the age of 41.

-- After her death there was no one to claim her body and it was given for medical research. Turns out her head was severed from her body and embalmed and preserved in Paris Museum of Anatomy. However, in 2000, it was uncovered that her head was missing. It remains missing to this date.

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