10 Real Life Femme Fatales Through the Ages
A seductive woman shrouded in mystery and danger is sometimes said to be a femme fatale. The term is French for “deadly woman.” There have been many famous femme fatales in movie history, like Catherine Tramell (played by Sharon Stone) in "Basic Instinct," or the animated Jessica Rabbit in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit." While it’s fun to watch these naughty, and sometimes downright evil, women on the silver screen, we thought we’d tell you about some real life femme fatales who have wreaked havoc on those around them throughout the ages.
When it comes to ambition, no woman tops Cleopatra — the original femme fatale. This extremely intelligent, wicked and seductive woman managed to become the Queen of Egypt, even though she wasn’t Egyptian (she was Macedonian). Versed in numerous languages and the art of enticing men, Cleopatra captured the hearts of Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, in addition to marrying her younger brother. She might have conquered Rome one day, too, if it hadn’t been for the efforts of the Roman general Octavian. When she knew all was lost, she decided to commit suicide, allegedly by allowing herself to be bitten by a poisonous snake.
World War I and II produced its fair share of femme fatales. Perhaps none more infamous than exotic dancer Mata Hari (Margaretha Geertruida Zelle). This Dutch performer gained fame as a dancer who wore very little clothing while swaying on stage in a style evocative of the Far East. She became a courtesan sought out by the elite in Paris, France. After World War I ended, Hari was accused of being a double agent, making use of the neutrality of her homeland in the Netherlands to travel around wartime Europe. Many doubt that she was actually a double agent working for Germany, but she was executed for the crime nonetheless.
Ilse Koch was definitely a very bad girl. In terms of evil, on a scale of 1-10, she rated a 12. Ilse was the wife of Karl-Otto Koch, the German commander of the infamous Nazi Buchenwald concentration camp. Since Ilse wasn’t content playing the part of the merry homemaker, she decided to take out her cruelty on the prisoners in the camp, earning her the moniker "The Bitch of Buchenwald." It was reported that Ilse took the skins of certain people selected for execution as souvenirs, especially if the skin in question had any kind of tattoo or identifying mark on it. She was rumored to have made lampshades out of the skins. After World War II, she was tried and convicted of war crimes. Since she had been having numerous affairs with different SS officers, it was no surprise that during Ilse's trial she announced that she was pregnant, although the father might have actually been one of her interrogators, who also happened to be Jewish. Ilse eventually committed suicide in prison at the age of 60 in 1967.
Anna Chapman is a more recent temptress and spy. This beautiful and cunning Russian patriot infiltrated American society and reportedly spied for the Russian Federation. U.S. authorities caught her in 2010. Chapman pleaded guilty to the charges leveled against her, but, as luck would have it, Russia had caught a few spies as well. Ms. Chapman was traded for American spies, and sent back to Russia. Since her arrest, Chapman has become a media personality in her native land. Her intelligence and good looks probably have something to do with that, although there are plenty of Russian skeptics out there who are less than thrilled with her poor ‘spy’ performance.
Myra Hindley and her husband, Ian, killed quite a few children in England in the 1960s. The nefarious couple gained fame as the perpetrators of the ‘Moor Murders,’ named for Saddleworth Moor, a location in the northern part of the country where some of their victims were buried. Myra, the future serial killer, met her partner in crime just after he was released from prison (always a good sign in a relationship). Ian made her prove her absolute love for him by involving her in rape and murder, and thus turning her into one of England’s most vicious and famous femme fatales.
Eleanor of Aquitaine made her presence known in France during the Middle Ages. This fierce woman married Louis VII, King of France when she was only 15 years old. Years later, she added to her pedigree by marrying England’s King Henry II. Eleanor was deeply involved in the Second Crusade, and even accompanied soldiers into the Middle East. When her first husband, Louis VII, commanded her to follow him to Jerusalem against her wishes, she was less than pleased. Eleanor eventually had her marriage to Louis annulled, and she then had seven children with her second husband, the much younger King of England. Eleanor, the English Queen, ended up supporting her sons in their various rebellions against their father.
Marilyn Monroe often played femme fatales in her film roles, like the women she portrayed in the movies 'Don't Bother to Knock' and 'Niagara.' She was quite a femme fatale in real life as well. Marilyn posed in 'Playboy' back in the day when ‘good’ actresses didn’t do such things. She had several rocky marriages (including one to Joe DiMaggio), plus an alleged affair with President John F. Kennedy, and perhaps his younger brother Bobby, too. Marilyn, who began life as Norma Jean Baker, broke many a heart in Hollywood and the political world. She had a turbulent life, filled with love affairs, adoration and intrigue. Her wild ride ended with a drug overdose in 1962, when she was only 36 years old.
Belle Gunness was a burly woman who was born in Norway, but lived out her exceptionally wicked life in America. It seems she acquired the bad habit of killing pretty much anyone who chose to be a part of her life. Belle murdered her two daughters, her various boyfriends, different suitors, her husbands, possibly other children, plus a whole slew of unfortunate souls who had the bad luck of making her acquaintance, or worse yet, becoming intimately involved with her. No one knows how many people she killed for certain, but Gunness might have dispatched as many as 40 people during her lifetime. Some people believe she faked her own death to elude the authorities, while others think Ray Lamphere, a spurned suitor, killed her for failing to return his affections.
Lucrezia Borgia had a knack for getting into trouble, a talent she probably learned from her father, Rodrigo Borgia, who later in life would become the very corrupt Pope Alexander VI. His illegitimate daughter, Lucrezia, purportedly had special rings to poison men and women she disliked. Her three marriages, as well as other amorous liaisons, were arranged to advance the Borgia family’s fortunes. Some people believe she even had an affair with her father. Regardless, she was rumored to use her good looks to seduce men for power, for pleasure, and, of course, for vengeance.
Mary Queen of Scots was born to get into trouble. Many people admired this 16th Century monarch for her beauty, but she had a darker side as well. Although her domain was initially Scotland, Mary often claimed rule over larger swaths of territory, including England. Through marriage, she became the Queen of France for a time, until her husband died. Her second husband, Henry Stewart, was murdered and his body dumped in a garden. The main suspect was James Hepburn, the Duke of Orkney, a man who would later become Mary’s third husband, after he was acquitted of the crime. When things went bad for Mary in Scotland, she fled to England, only to be imprisoned shortly thereafter by her cousin, Elizabeth I. After spending 18 years under ‘house’ (estate and castle) arrest, Elizabeth finally chopped off her cousin’s head for plotting an assassination, although it took several blows to get the job done.