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Lola Montez (1821–1861)

from Bell's Life in Sydney

Lola Montez, by James S. Earle &​ Son, c.1858

Lola Montez, by James S. Earle &​ Son, c.1858


The New York Herald, of the 22nd of January, says:–

This remarkable woman closed her earthly career in this city on Thursday last after a long and severe illness and was quietly buried on Saturday. Lola Montoz was of Irish and Moorish-Spanish descent, and was born in the city of Limerick, Ireland, in 1824. Her father was a captain in the 44th regiment of the English army, and a son of Sir Edward Gilbert. Her mother was an Oliver, and a descendant from Count de Montalvos who, at one time, possessed immense estates in Spain. The Montalvos were of Moorish origin, and emigrated to Spain during the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella the Catholic, Her father was only about twenty and her mother fifteen when they were married, and Lola was born during the second year of their marriage. At her baptism she was christened Maria Dolores Eliza Rosanna Gilbert; she was afterwards called Dolores, from which she derived her name Lola. At an early age she was taken to India, where her father died, and at six years of age she was sent to Europe, and was educated in France and England. When Lola was quite a young girl, her mother came over from India, and she was informed by Captain James that her mother had promised her in marriage to Sir Abraham Lumly, one of the judges of the Supreme Court of India, and about sixty years old. This piece of intelligence aroused her anger, and in a defiant tone she informed her mother that she never would consent. A family quarrel followed, and in her despair she appealed to Captain James for assistance. On the next day the latter eloped with her to Ireland, where Captain James's family resided. After a great deal of trouble they were married. They had been married but about eight months when Captain James left for India to join the army. Spending a season at Calcutta, the army was ordered to Kurwal, in the interior, where, but a few months after their arrival, her husband eloped with a Mrs. Lomer, leaving her, as she termed herself, "a little grass widow," at the mercy of her friends. Lola was immediately sent to Calcutta, where her mother resided. Her reception and treatment there was somewhat cruel. She was locked up in her chamber by her mother until a certificate was procured from a physician that she was not in good health and must be sent to Europe. Her stepfather showed his disapproval of this treatment by handing her a cheque for a thousand pounds as she stepped on board the vessel to sail for Europe. Those who had charge of her on this voyage were directed to place her in charge of Mr. David Craigie, residing at Perth, Scotland. But upon her arrival at London, she refused to go there and went to reside with a gifted lady by the name of Fanny Kelly. She decided upon becoming an actress, but being deficient in the English language, it prevented her from making an immediate appearance. It was therefore settled that she should become a danseuse. Studying that art for four months, under the instruction of a teacher, she paid a brief visit to the Montalvos in Spain, when she returned to London and made her debut at her Majesty's theatre. As soon as her mother heard of that event, she put on mourning and sent out funeral cards to all her friends, and has to this day refused to see or communicate with her. The debut was considered a successful one, but, owing to some financial difficulty, the engagement was broken off, and she soon after appeared at the royal theatre in Dresden. Her appearance, there created a great furore, and she at once became a favourite of the royal families. Leaving Dresden, she made a successful tour at both Berlin and Warsaw, attracting marked attention from the royal families whenever she appeared. At the latter place, on being hissed, she rushed to the footlights and declared that they came from the director, because she had refused gifts from his master. For this expression she was obliged to leave Warsaw, and it was only through the interference of the French consul that her arrest was prevented. Her next appearance was at St. Petersburg. On leaving the latter place she visited Paris, and, forming the acquaintance of Dujarrier, editor of La Presse, and one of the leaders of the republic party, in his society formed a taste for politics, and learned from him to hate tyranny and oppression in every form that it showed itself, and became an enthusiastic republican. She pledged herself in marriage to Dujarrier, but before the day fixed upon for the nuptials her betrothed was killed in a duel by Beauvellon. After this melancholy affair she left Paris for Bavaria, and again appeared on the theatrical stage at Munich. Her manners and originality attracted the notice of King Louis, who, ascertaining that she was versed in political matters, received her counsels and promoted her to the nobility as a reward for her political services. She soon ofter became Countess of Lansfeld, with an income 70,000 florins per annum. In this influential position she used every effort to put in practice those principles which she had learned of Dujarrier. Her first effort was to induce the King to abolish the ministry which had stood for a quarter of a century, and prevailed upon him to form a new cabinet, without any regard to the nobility, taking them from the ranks of the people. This act aroused a furious rage against her, not only in Bavaria, but throughout Germany. Her next effort was an attempt to introduce the Code Napoleon as the laws of the land. This was more than the enraged nobility would bear. All manner of devices were resorted to by the Jesuits, as well as the nobility, to get rid of her. They tried coaxing, bribing, and threatening, but to no avail. At length a revolution broke out, and she, finding herself unable to resist it, left the country disguised as a peasant girl, and sought refuge in the land of William Tell. Remaining in Switzerland for a short time, she visited the King of Bavaria disguised in boy's clothing. Returning from Switzerland, she hastened to London, and afterwards to Paris, where she resided a number of years. Shattered in fortune and broken in health, she turned her attention to America, and found her way to our shores in the same ship that brought Kossuth. About November last, she, then being ill, came to New York, and, by invitation, took up her abode with Mrs Buchanan, the wife of the celebrated florist, who knew Lola in Scotland, they being in their younger days school companions. Lola gradually grew worse, although the best of medical skill was employed, and everything supplied her calculated to alleviate her sufferings. About two weeks ago she began to sink, and being aware of the fact, her whole time was occupied in devotional exercises. But in this respect, anterior to the period we allude to, she exhibited a marked change on her previous life. Her whole desire seemed bent toward engaging in religious conversation with everybody with whom she came in contact, and to them she exhibited a deep knowledge on theological subjects. During the last week of her life she sent for and was attended by the Rev. Dr. Hawkes, of Calvary church, and was also attended by members of the congregation of the church, and to them, while engaged in religious conversation, she displayed a thorough repentance for her past erratic life.

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Citation details

'Montez, Lola (1821–1861)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 25 July 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Lola Montez, by James S. Earle &​ Son, c.1858

Lola Montez, by James S. Earle &​ Son, c.1858


Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Montez, Maria Dolores
  • James, Maria Dolores
  • Gilbert, Eliza
  • Countess Marie von Landsfeld

17 February, 1821
Grange, Sligo, Ireland


17 January, 1861 (aged 39)
Brooklyn, New York, United States of America

Cause of Death


Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.