Dancing Double Spy: Mata Hari’s Mysterious Life Story

Date April 1, 2019

In order to understand what is happening now in our world, it's helpful to know history and get interested in the biographies of famous people, especially women of influence.

Today we will tell you about Mata Hari, whose name is still popular today with few of us aware of her real story.


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Youth years

Margaretha Geertruida Zelle was born into the family of a hat shop owner who successfully invested money in the oil industry and became quite wealthy. She attended schools for the higher class until she was 13. However, soon her father went bankrupt, and 2 years later, she lost her mother.

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Margaretha was sent to her godfather, but she ran away from there to her uncle in The Hague.

Unfortunately, the girl's life also wasn’t successful there. The relative demanded complete obedience from Margaretha, while she was dreaming of a beautiful life.


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Time passed, and Zelle married an officer, Rudolph MacLeod, who was old enough to be her father. Soon, she welcomed him two children. However, Margaretha didn’t succeed in finding happiness in this marriage – her husband drank a lot and often displaced his anger onto her.



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Later, the girl escaped from her tyrant spouse to Paris, where she began performing under the name Mata Hari as an Oriental-style exotic dancer.

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Her dances resembled modern-day belly dancing. So, it wasn’t surprising that Margaretha immediately found a lot of wealthy fans.


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Double agent

One of Margaretha's lovers brought her to influential German authorities. Soon, the dancer was recruited by German intelligence. 


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In 1916, the French counterintelligence suspected that Mata Hari was involved as German spy. Margaretha found out about this, offered them her services, and was even sent by the French on a mission to Madrid. However, soon the suspicion of espionage was finally confirmed.

Arrest and execution

On February 13, 1917, Mata Hari was arrested by French intelligence on her return to Paris. The lawyer tried to rescue the dancer, but the punishment was not lifted – the death penalty.


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On October 15, Margaretha MacLeod was executed by shooting at a military training ground in Vincennes.

Mata Hari’s name is still shrouded in riddles, and the question of whether she was arrested for good reason remains unanswered.


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Considering that she was repeatedly abandoned or offended by different people, it isn’t surprising that she chose a lifestyle where she controlled herself and owed nothing to anyone.

Do you think she was fairly executed? Share your opinions in the comments!

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