Is Taylor Swift’s song ‘The Bolter’ based on a true story?

Taylor Swift has said her songs are often inspired by her life. But she also sings about other people, real and fictional.

"Marjorie" is about her grandma, opera singer Marjorie Finlay; "The Last Great American Dynasty" is about Rebekah Harkness, the woman who once owned Swift's Rhode Island house; "Starlight" is thought to be about Ethel Kennedy.

Fans have a theory that "The Bolter," a song on "The Tortured Poets Department," is about the socialite Lady Idina Sackville.

Sackville’s life — and love life — made headlines. She was divorced five times during the first half of the 20th century, earning herself the nickname “The Bolter."

Author Frances Osborne, Sackville's great-grandmother, published a novel under the same name in 2008 about her ancestor's life.

Osborne says she didn't grow up hearing much about Sackville. A five-time divorcée known for scandalizing the upper class in the 1900's wasn’t exactly seen as a role model for children.

When Osborne did find out the truth about her relationship to Sackville, she dug into her great-grandmother’s scrutinized life and questioned why it was so controversial in the first place.

“Idina was lambasted in the press for her relationships and she didn’t just give up and fall back into a patriarchal role but fought back by holding her head high, dressing to perfection and living life and love on her own terms,” Osborne tells TODAY.com. “This is what Swift has done.”

Whether "The Bolter" is actually about Sackville or not, Osborne is glad Swift is sharing a message about double standards applied to women who leave relationships.

“Women who leave relationships were called ‘bolters,’ which is the term for a crazy horse and implies they are irrational. This term may come from 100 years ago, but women are still all too often blamed in the same way,” Osborne explains.

How does ‘The Bolter’ connect to Lady Idina Sackville, according to Frances Osborne?

Swift has never confirmed if “The Bolter” is directly based on Sackville. TODAY.com reached out to Swift for comment.

However, Osborne sees connections between the song’s lyrics and her great-grandmother’s biography of the same name.

Swift’s lyrics describe a woman in a romance and the relief she feels from leaving them. “As she was leaving / it felt like breathing,” she sings.

Osborne believes these lyrics to be about a woman in a “perpetual relationship loop of promising beginnings and bad endings,” a path her great-grandmother was familiar with.

With this song, Osborne believes Swift is "showing an empowered woman, flirting with and seducing men on her own terms." She sees her great-grandmother reflected in the words:.

"Idina was said to be able to ‘whistle a chap off a branch.’ And this was not because she was born beautiful, she did this using her character and intelligence.”

Swift seems to be criticizing the double standards applied to women who leave relationships compared to men who do the same. “Men are expected to love and leave, so why shouldn’t a woman? This is what Idina did,” Osborne says

Osborne appreciates the message of "The Bolter," no matter who it's about.

“Swift’s message resonates with both people working out how to structure the lives ahead of them, and with an older generation who wish they had had Swift around at 25, and are determined that the women coming up behind them aren’t going to have to make the same mistakes,” Osborne shares.

“The unstoppability of Swift is an important message in itself,” Osborne continues. “From left, right and center, in front and behind, people have tried to stop her. Each time, she has managed to demonstrate life’s greatest lesson: That bad stuff happens, what matters is how you pick yourself up and get going again.”

Read the lyrics to 'The Bolter'

By all accounts, she almost drowned

When she was six in frigid water

And I can confirm she made

A curious child, ever reviled

By everyone except her own father

With a quite bewitching face

Splendidly selfish, charmingly helpless

Excellent fun til you get to know her

Then she runs like it’s a race

Behind her back, her best mates laughed

And they nicknamed her “The Bolter”

Started with a kiss,

“Oh, we must stop meeting like this”

But it always ends up with a town car speeding

Out the drive one evening

Ended with the slam of a door,

Then he’ll call her a ‘whore’

Wish he wouldn’t be sore

But as she was leaving

It felt like breathing

All her f----- lives

Flashed before her eyes

It feels like the time

She fell through the ice ...

Then came out alive

He was a cad, wanted her bad

Just like any good trophy hunter

And she liked the way it tastes

Taming a bear, making him care

Watching him jump then pulling him under

And at first blush, this is fate

When it’s all roses, portrait poses

Central Park Lake in tiny rowboats

What a charming Saturday!

That’s when she sees the littlest leaks

Down in the floorboards

And she just knows.

She must bolt.

Started with a kiss,

“Oh, we must stop meeting like this”

But it always ends up with a town car speeding

Out the drive one evening

Ended with the slam of a door

Then he’ll call her a ‘whore’

Wish he wouldn’t be sore

But as she was leaving

It felt like breathing

All her fuckin lives

Flashed before her eyes

It feels like the time

She fell through the ice ...

Then came out alive

She’s been many places with

Men of many faces

First they’re off to the races

And she’s laughing drawing aces

But none of it is changing

That the chariot is waiting

Hearts are hers for the breaking

There’s escape in escaping

Started with a kiss,

“Oh, we must stop meeting like this”

But it always ends with a town car speeding

Out the drive one evening

Ended with the slam of a door

But she’s got the best stories,

You can be sure

That as she was leaving.

It felt like freedom.

All her f----- lives

Flashed before her eyes

And she realized

It feels like the time

She fell through the ice

Then came out alive

This article was originally published on TODAY.com

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