Even royalty courted her. In 1896, King Léopold II, having watched her dance at the ballet, became infatuated with her, and rumor soon spread that she was his mistress. The king had fathered two children with a prostitute and her reputation suffered as a consequence. But this was the Belle Époque, a time of unprecedented colonial expansion, the very dawn of modern celebrity culture. Such indiscretions were soon forgotten and Cléo de Mérode became an international star, giving performances across Europe and the United States.