Mata Hari

Copyright Michael D. Robbins 2005


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Mata Hari “Margaretha Geertruida Zelle”—Spy, Double-Agent, Prostitute

(1876-1917) (Source: LMR cites birth record from Gemeente Archief Leeuwarden, Steinbrecher.) Died, before a firing squad, October 15, 1917, Vincennes, France.    

(Ascendant Scorpio with Jupiter in Scorpio in H1; MC, Leo with Uranus in Leo near MC {depending on exact birth time used}; Sun, Mars, Mercury and Uranus all conjunct in Leo; Moon in Pisces conjunct Saturn; Venus in Cancer; Neptune and Pluto in Taurus)

Zelle moved to Java with her fourty-year old husband when she was eighteen.  She soon left him and gave up her child, supporting herself as a dancer.  During World War I, she became a double agent between German contacts and the French embassy.  Arrested and tried on 25 July 1917, she was sent to the firing squad on 15 October, Vincennes.


I am a woman who enjoys herself very much; sometimes I lose, sometimes I win.

The dance is a poem of which each movement is a word.


Mata Hari

Margaretha Geertruida Zelle alias Mata Hari was born in Leeuwarden (NL)
on 7 August 1876.

At the beginning of the 20th century she moved to France where she started a career as a nude dancer. She became famous and moved in the highest circles of Europe. Her fame made it easy to travel to various European countries. Even during the war. So, the French Secret Service asked Mata Hari to mingle with the Germans and find out as much as she could. However, during her first mission something went wrong and she was arrested by the British Intelligence Service. All of her alibis were watertight, so the British agents had to release her. In the meantime, the French too got suspicious.
It also became clear that German army officers were paying her. Officially it was to keep them company but the French intelligence office wasn't so sure about that. When she tried to cross the French border, to visit one of her lovers, she was arrested by the French Secret Service and interrogated.
During one of these long sessions, she succumbed and confessed to be a German spy, known under the pseudonym of H21.
The trial that followed was nothing but a showcase. The French were convinced that she was: "one of the greatest spies of the century, responsible for the death of tens of thousands of soldiers". She was found guilty and condemned to death. On 15 October 1917 she was shot by a firing squad.

born Aug. 7, 1876, Leeuwarden, Neth.
died Oct. 15, 1917, Vincennes, near Paris, Fr.
byname of Margaretha Geertruida MacLeod, née Zelle
dancer and courtesan whose name has become a synonym for the seductive female spy. She was shot by the French on charges of spying for Germany during World War I, although the nature and extent of her espionage activities remain uncertain.
The daughter of a prosperous hatter, she attended a teachers' college in Leiden. In 1895 she married an officer of Scottish origin, Captain Campbell MacLeod, in the Dutch colonial army, and from 1897 to 1902 they lived in Java and Sumatra. The couple returned to Europe but later separated, and she began to dance professionally in Paris in 1905 under the name of Lady MacLeod. She soon called herself Mata Hari, said to be a Malay expression for the sun (literally, “eye of the day”). Tall, extremely attractive, superficially acquainted with East Indian dances, and willing to appear virtually nude in public, she was an instant success in Paris and other large cities. Throughout her life she had numerous lovers, many of them military officers.
The facts regarding her espionage activities remain obscure. According to one account, in the spring of 1916, while she was living in The Hague, a German consul is said to have offered to pay her for whatever information she could obtain on her next trip to France. After her arrest by the French, she acknowledged only that she had given some outdated information to a German intelligence officer.
According to Mata Hari's story, she had agreed to act as a French spy in German-occupied Belgium. She did not bother to tell French intelligence of her prior arrangement with the Germans. She later said that she had intended to secure for the Allies the assistance of Ernest Augustus, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg in Germany and heir to the dukedom of Cumberland in the British peerage.
Apparently, British sources informed French intelligence of Mata Hari's negotiations with the German official in The Hague. French suspicion of her duplicity increased, and on Feb. 13, 1917, she was arrested in Paris. She was imprisoned, tried by a military court on July 24–25, 1917, sentenced to death, and shot by a firing squad.

The most renowned woman in spy history--although she probably wasn't one. She was naive and easily duped--and trapped--by her "friends" as well as her enemies during World War I.

Born in Holland as Magaretha Gertrud Zelle to a well-to-do Dutch shopkeeper and his Javanese wife, she attended a school for teachers but was forced to leave for having sex with the headmaster. At age 18, she married a Dutch naval officer who was 20 years her senior. They soon moved to the Dutch East Indies and had two children, but divorced in 1906. She went to Paris in 1905, assuming the name Mata Hari (Eye of Dawn) and the persona of a Javanese princess. She made her debut as an erotic dancer at the Oriental Studies Museum.

During World War I Mata Hari had an affair with a 25-year-old Russian pilot flying with the French, Capt. Vadim Maslov, son of a Russian admiral. When Maslov was wounded she asked permission to visit him in a forward hospital. French officials at the Deuxieme Bureau gave her permission--in return for agreeing to spy the on the Germans, including possibly the crown prince, whom she knew. She was to receive one million francs for her efforts. To carry out her assignment, Mata Hari traveled to Spain en route to neutral Holland, from which she could cross over into Germany to rendezvous with the crown prince. En route to Holland, her ship stopped over in Falmouth, England, where she was detained and interrogated. British officials warned her not to go to Germany and sent her back to Spain. There she met and had an affair with the German military Attaché, Maj. Kalle. He sent a message to Berlin in a code that he knew the Allies could read, saying that spy "H-21" had proved valuable.

Mata Hari returned to Paris on January 4, 1917, and was arrested on February 13th. Although French and British intelligence services suspected her of spying for Germany, neither could produce definite evidence against her. Secret ink was found in her room--incriminating evidence in that period. She contended that it was part of her makeup. She admitted to taking money from Germans but claimed it was for love, not spying.

Still, she was tried by a closed court-martial, found guilty, and executed by a French firing squad on October 15, 1917. Refusing a blindfold or to be bound to the stake, she blew a kiss to the 12-man firing squad before their rifles shattered the morning stillness.


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