Exotic dancer and suspected double agent Mata Hari was executed in Paris 100 years ago
Her fame as an exotic beauty quickly spread across Europe and she became a celebrity, also raising eyebrows for her many love affairs.
Her Oriental "sacred dances" pushed the boundaries of pre-war Europe and often saw her appearing to wear little more than a bejewelled brassiere. She brought a carefree provocative style to the stage in her act. The most celebrated segment of her act was her progressive shedding of clothing until she wore just a jewelled bra and some ornaments upon her arms and head.
By 1914, however, her popularity was waning. She became a call girl in Paris, entertaining ministers and becoming known for her extravagant parties. Broke, due to her lavish lifestyle, she accepted in 1916 an offer from a German diplomat to pay off her debts if she spied on France.
Mata Hari then offered her services to France's counter-espionage bureau where agents were already suspicious of her. The French suspicions deepened when she requested a pass to travel to Vittel, near the eastern front and where a new military aerodrome was being built. She said her visit was to meet a young Russian officer who was her lover. Then in January 1917, the French authorities intercepted a cable from Germany appearing to identify Mata Hari as their "Agent H 21".
She was arrested and charged with being a double agent.
On October 15, 1917, Mata Hari was executed in the Parisian suburb of Vincennes, President Raymond Poincare having refused her request for clemency. She faced a firing squad, accused of spying for Germany during World War I.
Witnesses wrote that she wore a long, black velvet cloak with fur trimmings and a large square fur collar. She is said to have declined a blindfold and blew kisses to her executors.
Asked by a military clerk whether she had any last revelations, she replied: "None, and if I had, I would keep them to myself."