Mata Hari's Childhood (02:46)
Margaretha Zelle was born in August 1876 to a Leeuwarden hat maker who embellished his achievements and sent her to private school. When she was 13, he went bankrupt; her mother died of tuberculosis a year later.
Mata Hari's Marriage (03:42)
Margaretha's godfather enrolled her in an education course; she had an affair with the headmaster and was expelled. She responded to Dutch army officer Rudolf MacLeod’s newspaper ad; they married in 1895. She was not content with his modest income.
Life in Indonesia (02:31)
Margaretha's son Norman was born in 1897. The family settled in the Dutch East Indies; Jean-Louise was born in 1898. Margaretha became fascinated with Javanese culture and dance, and flirted with other officers. Rudolf became physically and emotionally abusive.
Family Tragedy (03:07)
Norman and Jean-Louise became ill in Java; Norman died. Letters reveal they suffered mercury poisoning from syphilis treatment. The loss further strained Margaretha and Rudolf's marriage.
Mata Hari's Divorce (03:15)
Rudolf agreed to return to the Netherlands, but continued to abuse Margaretha. She filed for legal separation but he refused to provide for her and Jean-Louise. Unable to find decent work, she had to choose between her daughter and freedom in Paris.
Freedom in Paris (02:51)
Margaretha arrived in 1904, attracted by the city's glamour. She projected wealth and fame and stayed at the Grand Hotel, where she took lovers to fund her career. She joined Ernst Mollier's circus and met Paris socialites.
Exotic Dance Career (03:55)
Margaretha recreated Indian and Javanese dance with European elements and performed at salons. Emil Guimet arranged for her to perform at his museum for a selected audience. Hear a description of her "nude" performance that scandalized Paris.
A Classy Performer (02:42)
By presenting herself as an artist that educated audiences about Indian culture, Mata Hari danced in an erotic way without being labeled a striptease entertainer.
Rise to Stardom (04:39)
Gabriel Astruc became Mata Hari's manager. She performed at large Paris theaters, toured Europe, and earned artistic respect appearing in operas. She capitalized on her exotic persona for publicity by appearing in fashion magazines and socializing with the Paris elite.
Becoming a Courtesan (03:19)
Mata Hari's charm gained her many wealthy patrons. Money gave her freedom; Gaston Menier, Jules Cambon, Henri de Rothschild, and Alfred Messimy were among her lovers. She believed her artistic power lay in nude performance.
Career Break (02:45)
In 1906, Rudolf filed for divorce and gained custody of Jean-Louise. Mata Hari suspended her dancing to be with wealthy lovers Alfred Kiepert in Berlin and then Xavier Rousseau in the French countryside.
Resuming an Exotic Dance Career (03:11)
In 1912, financial difficulties led Mata Hari to return to the stage. She performed in Milan operas and with Indian musician Inayat Khan in Paris. She coveted the role of Oscar Wilde's Salome and lost a petition for custody of Jean-Louise.
Competition and Career Challenges (01:58)
In her 30s, Mata Hari had increasing difficulty in finding engagements; Eastern dance had become a trend among her imitators. Out of desperation, she performed at low class theaters like the Folies Bergere.
World War I Begins (04:11)
In 1914, Mata Hari began a six month engagement in Berlin—unaware that war was breaking out. Her assets frozen, she returned to The Hague. Karl Kroemer hired her to spy for Germany; she needed the money and ignored potential consequences.
Under Suspicion (02:05)
Mata Hari grew bored in The Hague and returned to Paris in 1916. However, the city was in mourning and she was followed by French intelligence. She spent a Dutch lover's money on shopping sprees.
Becoming a Counter-Spy (03:56)
Mata Hari fell in love with Russian officer Vladimir de Masloff. While visiting him at the front, Captain Georges Ladoux offered her to become a spy. After Masloff was wounded, she accepted Ladoux’s offer.
British Arrest (02:49)
As a French spy, Mata Hari boarded a boat for Belgium. She was mistaken for another spy in England and taken to London for interrogation. She revealed working for Ladoux, who asked British intelligence to send her to Spain.
Wartime Naiveté (02:31)
Having been betrayed by Ladoux, Mata Hari seduced German intelligence head Arnold Halle who also betrayed her. She returned to Paris but Ladoux refused to meet her. A psychic told her she would not live long.
French Arrest (02:46)
Mata Hari was arrested in February 1917 and accused of being German agent H21; she became a scapegoat for conspiracy theories. Her interrogator Pierre Bouchardon found her persona threatening.
Imprisonment and Investigation (03:03)
Bouchardon sent Mata Hari to Saint-Lazare Prison for three months. He ignored her pleas for soap or to contact Masloff. Edouard Clunet tried to defend her legally. Ladoux provided German telegrams referring to H21 as evidence of her espionage.
Convicting Mata Hari (03:28)
Bouchardon told Margaretha that Masloff was leaving her to marry a Russian woman. She confessed that Kroemer had hired her to spy for Germany but she had worked for Ladoux. In a military court, only two influential lovers defended her.
Hear Mata Hari's thoughts on death. Eye witnesses say she faced the firing squad with bravery and died in character—promoting her myth.
Mata Hari's Legacy (02:31)
After her execution, Margaretha became a cultural and Hollywood icon. A self-made woman, she symbolized freedom and social mobility. Ladoux was accused of espionage and disgraced. In 1919, her daughter died suddenly at age 21.
Credits: Mata Hari the Naked Spy (03:27)
Credits: Mata Hari the Naked Spy
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