History Of Madame Tussaud's
( Originally Published 1920 )
An old placard—Princess Augusta's testimonial—Great success at Gray's Inn Road—Madame initiates promenade concerts—Bygone tableaux.
AN old placard now in our possession informs us that at Blackheath the Exhibition was housed in the Assembly Room at the Green Man Hotel. The exact date when it left there is not known, but we do know that it had previously found a temporary abode in the Town Hall, Brighton.
There it was visited early in 1833 by members of the Royal Family, then in residence at the Pavilion, as is vouched for in the following quaint notice. The placard we give in full, not only on account of its quaint wording, but because it gives a good idea of the Exhibition as it then existed:
NOW OPEN !
WITH DECIDED SUCCESS!
The Promenade being Crowded every Evening !
In the only Room that could be had sufficiently spacious for the purpose,
The GREAT ASSEMBLY ROOM of the late ROYAL LONDON BAZAAR, GRAY'S INN ROAD
(Which has been fitted up for the purpose). Carriages may wait in the Arena.
Lately arrived from the Town Hall, Brighton, and last from the Assembly Room, Green Man Hotel, Blackheath.
Coronation Groups and Musical Promenade.
ENTIRELY NEW. MADAME TUSSAUD AND SONS
Have the honor to announce that their entirely new Exhibition, which has only to be seen to ensure its support and patronage, justly entitling it to the appellation of the most popular Collection in the Empire, is NOW OPEN as above mentioned, and they trust the Public will not form their ideas of it from anything of a similar description they may have seen in this Metropolis or elsewhere—as in their peculiar art they stand alone; a fact acknowledged by those that have made the tour of Europe. They are induced to state this to guard against the prejudice excited by a view of inferior Collections. Madame Tussaud had the honor of being Artist to Her Royal Highness Madame Elizabeth, was patronized by the late Royal Family of France, by their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of York, twice by the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, and lately at the Town Hall, Brighton, by Her Royal Highness the Princess Augusta, His Royal Highness Prince George, and by nearly the whole of the Royal Establishment.
Her Royal Highness, with that kindness which has ever distinguished the Royal Family for the encouragement of the Fine Arts, honored Madame Tussaud with the following letter :
"Lady Mary Taylor is commanded by Her Royal Highness the Princess Augusta to acquaint Madame Tussaud with Her Royal Highness's approbation of her Exhibition, which is well worthy of admiration, and the view of which afforded Her
Royal Highness much amusement and gratification.—Pavilion, Brighton, Feb. 9, 1833."
The placard goes on to describe the Exhibition as follows:
The Exhibition consists of a great variety of Public Characters, modelled with the greatest care, and regardless of expense, among whom will be noticed the original figures of BURKE and HARE (taken from their faces, to obtain which the Proprietors went expressly to Scotland) ; which have ex-cited intense interest from the peculiar nature of their crimes, and their approach to life, which renders it difficult to recognize them from living persons. Also DENNIS COLLINS (taken from life at the gaol, Reading), in the identical dress he had on when he made the atrocious attempt on His Majesty's life at Ascot Heath Races.
This shows that Madame Tussaud in those days, as her successors do in these, took the greatest pains to ensure fidelity as regards costume as well as features.
There can be no doubt that Madame Tussaud actually originated the promenade concerts which have since become so popular a form of musical entertainment, for the placard goes on to announce that:
There will be a Musical Promenade every Evening from Half-past Seven till Ten, when a selection of Music will be performed by the Messrs. Tussaud and Fishers; the Promenade will be lighted with a profusion of lamps, producing, with the variety of rich costumes, special decorations, etc., an unequalled coup d'oeil.
A description is next given of some of the exhibits, which will be perused with interest:
The Collection consists of PORTRAITS in composition as large as life, dressed in appropriate costumes.
REPRESENTING THE CORONATION OF H.M. WILLIAM IV.
Description.—It represents HIS MAJESTY on the Throne, habited in his Robes of State, as worn on that august occasion, in the act of being Crowned by the Archbishop of Canterbury, supported by the Bishop of Norwich. On His Majesty's right, Her Majesty QUEEN ADELAIDE, wearing the Cap of State, supported by Earl Grey, in his Coronation Robes. On His Majesty's left, the Lord Chancellor Brougham and the Duke of Wellington, in their Coronation Robes, surmounted by Three allegorical Figures representing Britannia, Caledonia, and Hibernia.
THE CORONATION OF BUONAPARTE,
Copied from the Celebrated Picture by David.
Description.—The moment chosen is the time when Buonaparte, contrary to all precedent crowned himself. It represents him in the act of placing the Crown on his head, dressed in the magnificent costume as worn by him at his Coronation ; also a Figure of the Empress Josephine, who is seen kneeling at the foot of the altar, accompanied by a Page. At the altar is represented His Holiness Pope Pius VI, giving the bene-diction, supported by the celebrated Cardinal Fesche (Buonaparte's Uncle) and Prince Roustan (Buonaparte's favourite Mameluke) in the act of proclaiming the ceremony, attended by a Mameluke.
The two above-mentioned Groups have been universally admired by every one that has seen them; and Madame Tussaud and Sons hope they will meet with the approbation of the Inhabitants of London and its Vicinity.
Taken from the History of Scotland.
MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS ABDICATING THE THRONE.
Description.—It represents her at the moment of hesitating to abdicate, being alarmed at the conduct of Baron Ruthven, who stands opposite to her. Next to him is the Figure of Sir J. Melville, interceding to appease the Baron ; and behind the Queen is a venerable Figure of an Augustin Monk, who is in the attitude of indignation at seeing his Mistress insulted.
CHARACTERS AS FOLLOWS :
His Late Majesty George the Fourth.