In the Belle Epoque in France, no face was more recognizable than Cleo de Merode. With an unparalleled photogenic beauty that turned her into the first modern celebrity, Cleo’s likeness graced everything from playing cards to playbills before she even hit adulthood. But behind her perfect looks were some very dark surprises.
1. She Was Illegitimate
Looking back, it seems obvious Cleo de Merode was going to take the world by storm. Even her childhood was right out of some dark fairy tale. Born in Paris in 1875, de Mérode was the daughter of the Viennese Baroness Vincentia de Mérode—but that didn’t mean Cleo had it easy. That’s because her father was another matter entirely.