“Everything is an illusion” – Mata Hari [2]

LEEUWARDEN – “There is another thing I ask you to keep in mind, and that is that Mata Hari and Madame Zelle McLeod are two completely different women. (…) What Mata Hari- the dancer- is allowed, is forbidden to Madame Zelle McLeod. What happens to Mata Hari, does not affect Madame Zelle. Who turns to one, does not turn to the other one”. – Margaretha, 1917

By: Rica Kenning – photo Ruben van Vliet, officially for Fries Museum

The dancer
The name Mata Hari, means “eye of the day” or sun, it resembles a new beginning which she seemed to achieve when coming to Paris after getting divorced and starting her dancing career. She could tell journalists and the audience whatever she wanted and they believed it. Sometimes she was a Javanese Princess, another time a temple slave.

The player
She played with the people as with toys and Mata Hari perfectly knew how to play with them. But she didn’t only play with the truth, also with men, as they provided her with the luxury life she loved. They paid her homes, her hotels and her luxury clothes, which made her even becoming a courtesan for noblemen. Even though she got paid for her performances, she spent the money as quick as she got it. With becoming the dancer Mata Hari, she left behind her past with Rudolph McLeod.

The spy
In 1916 she became the German spy H21. Mata Hari took the money without doing the job she was assigned to. When traveling to The Hague, she asked in Frankfurt for her Dutch travel documents; she stated her correct age but it was later changed from 38 to 30 in the document, while the birth year stayed the same.

But soon as the French got some doubts on her person, she got assigned by the French secret service to spy for them. Mata Hari, thought to make it as a French spy, did not realise that it was a trap to unmask her work as a spy for Germany. She soon felt the heat of being unmasked and before she could flee to the Netherlands she got arrested. She was interrogated 17 times, though she only started telling the truth from 10th on. At her execution, she denied wearing the blindfold as she wanted to look in the executers eyes when dying.

Lies and illusion
Mata Hari’s life was built up all around lies and illusion. She lived in the illusion that she needs money from men and love in order to forget about her first marriage and her lost children. The quote from the beginning of Margaretha in 1917, shows that she forgot that both characters are the same person, even you can say that she lost control of her life with creating Mata Hari.