Mata Hari, the goddess of the lies

Mata Hari’s story is the cronique of a lie. A well planned lie though that drove half Europe crazy during the World War. This great Dutch impostor, whose real name was Margaretha Geertruida Zelle, was in fact a liar since she was a child. She wasn’t a dancer, nor had Hindu origins and she had no training as a spy.

However her skills were obvious to many men in the time. Maybe as a fiction writer she would’ve become into a acclamed artist, but the reality is that she died facing an execution squad when she only was. By then, she already was a myth. She was obsessed with soldiers. She used to say: I’d prefer to be a poor solider’s lover rather than a wealth banquer’s.

Her baptise as Mata Hari happened in Paris. She arrived to the city of the lights from the Dutch East Indies, where she had been living after getting married to a 18 years old soldier. This marriage was like a launch pad for her and was the first stone of the cathedral of lies.


In 1902 she left her husband and a daughter and went back to Europe with the idea of succeeding in Paris with her new Hindu identity and under the name of Mata Hari (the day’s eye). Parisian’s fell soon in love with this dark-haired exotic woman who used to swing her hips to show her perfect body.

She managed to have many protectors and contracts in different European cities, but the World War started when she was in Berlin. There she was the Police Manager’s lover and after that she was the lover of the German cónsul in Amsterdam, the chief of all spionage…

mata-hari-mujeres iconicas-vintage by lopez linares1

It was actually him who thought of Mata Hari to obtain information from the French soldiers. This way she became into the Agent H-21. She was so ambitious that never thought it twice being a double agent, even though her life was in risk. It’s said she offered herself as a spy to the French Captain Ledoux, who was on charge of the French spionage. He accepted although he kept an eye on her since he already knew her fame. Other theories say she talked to him to get a letter-of-safe-conduct to travel to a different city in order to see a second lover. During the interview the French Captain offered her to spy for them.


Then her adventures with many officers around Europe began. The web she built with each one she was with ended up turning against herself. She was put under arrest and interviewed. Apparently during this inverview she said her most famous phrase: A whore? Maybe, but never a traitor!

She was accused of treason by France and sentenced to death, despite the fact that they never had enough proof of her crime. In 1917 Mata Hari was executed. She didn’t want her eyes to be bandaged, so she could see straight to the officers’ eyes one more time. Rumors say she even launched a last a provocative Kiss.

Nobody claimed her body. A huge irony for a woman whose body had been idolized. Greta Garbo popularized her in cinema in the 30’s.

mata-hari-mujeres iconicas-vintage by lopez linares


Images @Wikipedia , @María López-Linares Vintage Photography

Texto @Esther Ginés