History Of Madame Tussaud's
( Originally Published 1920 )
King of Siam's visit—The Shahzada's clothing—King of Burmah's war elephant—Tale of two monkeys.
THE King of Siam and the Shahzada of Afghanistan are linked in my memory because of the peculiar interest King Chulalongkorn took in the Afghan Prince, whose model appeared in all the splendour of one of the Shahzada's own State dresses.
The moment the King of Siam was confronted by this portrait he exclaimed in surprise:
"How did the uniform come here? Where did you get it?"
"Oh," I replied, "we purchased it.
"Whom did you get it from?" the King of Siam persisted. "From the Shahzada himself?"
The information was imparted that the elaborate costume had been offered to us by a member of the Shahzada's suite, who took a keen personal interest in the transaction, and gave us to understand that his royal master would prefer that the portrait should not wear his own clothes till after his departure from this country.
We complied with this condition, and while writing these reminiscences the gorgeous apparel of the Afghan Prince lies heaped in a corner of my studio, having been brought out that I may again for a moment gaze upon its faded glories of purple and gold; for the portrait of the Shahzada has long since been removed from its pedestal.
The King of Siam was a very decorous and unassuming little gentleman, who gave no hint of disappointment that his own portrait did not appear in the collection, while I wondered, as I walked with him, whether he regretted or welcomed the omission.
As we came face to face with the Shah of Persia, whose gorgeous habiliments glittered with a veritable firmament of jewels, the King again harped upon the question of the Shahzada's clothes.
Looking hard at the "lion" of a former season, the King exclaimed :
"His own clothes, too, I suppose?"
"Not this time," I replied. "We were not so fortunate in the case of the Shah."
"An exact duplicate, though," was the compliment of the laughing King.
The Eastern potentate was a most minute and intelligent observer of all he saw, and questioned me unceasingly.
"Who is that beside the Prince?" he inquired, pointing at the Prince of Wales in a howdah on the back of the elephant Juno, a tableau which depicted a tiger-hunting incident in the late King Edward's Indian tour.
On being told that the Prince was accompanied by his "loader," the King replied, "Yes, yes," as if he thought his question a superfluous one.
From hall to hall we passed, and I was astonished at the knowledge of English history displayed by King Chulalongkorn. He picked out the figure of Richard I, and, pointing to the white doublet with the red cross on the breast, said, "The costume of a Crusader—certainly, certainly." The representation of King John with the Magna Charta in his hand did not appear to produce a very pleasing impression upon the Siamese autocrat.
"What a name ! Who was he'?" remarked the King in front of Houqua, the big Chinaman who earned his place in the Exhibition on account of certain services he had rendered this country. I had withdrawn for a moment, and was called back to explain that Houqua was a Chinese merchant, whereat the royal interlocutor turned away with a contempt for trade clearly indicated on his face.
It was surprising to note that King Chulalongkorn passed the portraits of Mr. Gladstone, Lord Salisbury, and other British statesmen without a pause or comment. He stood some minutes in front of the case containing the orders of the Duke of Wellington, and then remarked, with admiring emphasis :
"These are surely all the orders a man could have; he must have had nearly everything."
The group of Henry VIII and his six wives was surveyed in stolid silence by a monarch not likely to be moved by such a spectacle. In a shadowed portion of the gallery he nearly mistook (and slightly frightened) two nice English girls in white for wax figures.
In the Chamber of Horrors he showed from his observations that he was familiar with the main features of several of the crimes commemorated there.
I may add that every honour was done the King on that occasion. We had the public excluded from the Exhibition, and the Siamese National Anthem was played on his arrival and departure.
The King of Siam's inspection of the elephant reminds me that, beside the stuffed monkey which one of the wives of Henry VIII is fondling, the only animals ever shown in the Exhibition were in the "Tiger Hunt" scene in question. The tusker was the famous Juno, which was for many years the King of Burmah's war elephant.
The Prince of Wales had just mortally wounded a male tiger, and was about to give the coup de grace to another beast which, unexpectedly springing from the jungle, had been pinned to the ground by Juno. The animals were stuffed and staged by the late Mr. Row-land Ward.
When I say that these were the only animals shown in the Exhibition I mean, of course, dead ones.
Within the past twelve months a monkey that escaped from the Zoo, barely a mile away, entered the Exhibition by a back window, and was seen in the act by a crowd of people, who had been amused by its antics outside.
It appears that the monkey, in scurrying through the building, caught sight of its dead counterpart on the lap of Henry's Queen, and tried to attract its attention. Failing in this, the little creature pawed it, and the result was electrical.
The strangeness of coming unexpectedly in contact with a dead animal which was thought to be alive seems to have startled the monkey beyond measure, for it became terrified, and, springing away, went at great speed to the remotest part of the Exhibition, where it took refuge in one of the side rooms.
Several visitors, mostly ladies, were in the room at the time, and they at once made for the door, which was thereupon locked upon the animal. Meanwhile we had telephoned to the Zoo that one of the monkeys had escaped and was in the Exhibition.
A keeper arrived shortly afterwards, and said he had missed it from its cage. Both keeper and monkey were delighted at their reunion. The monkey had not seemed to trouble much about the figures, which it probably took for living people, but the dead monkey on the lap of one of them had been more than it could stand.