History Of Madame Tussaud's
( Originally Published 1920 )
Three heroes of the war: Nurse Cavell, Jack Cornwell, V.C., and Captain Fryatt—Lords Roberts and Kitchener—Queen Alexandra's stick and violets—The Duke of Norfolk's tip.
THERE are three figures, added during the past few momentous years, which possess the rare distinction of being models of abiding interest. Out of the many portraits placed in the Exhibition, there are few that stay there very long.
Nurse Cavell, Jack Cornwell, and Captain Fryatt will always be remembered with esteem by the present generation, and the great story of their heroic deeds ensures for them a permanent home at Baker Street, where they will be viewed with patriotic pride by posterity. The portrait of Edith Cavell, the martyr-nurse, was modelled immediately after that heroic woman was brutally shot by the Germans at Brussels at two o'clock in the morning of Tuesday, the 12th of October, 1915.
I communicated with the London Hospital, White-chapel, where Nurse Cavell had served before she went to Belgium, and the nurses there readily afforded me all the information they had to impart.
Several of them visited my studio and gave me valuable hints as to the posing of the figure and the general demeanour of Miss Cavell when at the hospital. They particularly described the way in which she used to walk through the wards with a book under her arm and her head inclined slightly to one side. When the model was finished they were good enough to say that it enabled them to visualise Miss Cavell as they knew her, and that it was a pleasing portrait.
My wife prepared the laurel wreath, placed above the model, on which are inscribed Nurse Cavell's words, uttered a few hours before her death, "I am happy to die for my country."
Soon after the by hero of the Jutland naval battle was modelled and he had been awarded the posthumous honour of the Victoria Cross, his mother, accompanied by a lady friend, came to the Exhibition to see the figure of her son. It was on the 24th of August, 1916.
No sooner did Mrs. Cornwell catch sight of the image of her young hero than she burst into a fit of weeping, and exclaimed, "My boy, my dear boy!" Upon resuming her composure she expressed her surprise at the remarkable resemblance, and added : "I am very proud of my boy, but I do miss him so."
Mrs. Cornwell had with her a letter she had received from the Captain of H.M.S. Chester (her son's ship). He wrote:
I know you would wish to hear of the splendid fortitude and courage shown by your boy. His devotion to duty was an example to all of us. The wounds, which resulted in his death within a short time, were received in the first few minutes of the action. He remained steady at his noost exposed post at the gun, waiting for orders. His gun would not bear on the enemy; all but two of the crew were killed or wounded, and he was the only one who was in such an exposed position. But he felt he might be needed, as indeed he might have been; so he stayed there, standing and waiting under heavy fire with just his own brave heart and God's help to support him.
For the model of Captain Fryatt, of the Great Eastern Railway steamer Brussels, I had to rely mainly upon photographs.
This brave seaman was captured, with his vessel, by the Germans on the 23rd of June, 1916. On the 27th of the following month he was condemned to death at Bruges for attempting to ram a German submarine, the sentence being carried out the same afternoon.
The model appropriately stands near that of Mr. Havelock Wilson, the sailors' champion, and, judging from the remarks of visitors who knew the Captain well, it bears a good resemblance.
We cannot leave this subject without associating with these figures the revered names of Lord Roberts and Lord Kitchener, whose models stand near by. The attitude of visitors towards them is that of deep admiration and respect, expressed not so much by word of mouth as by demeanour, which eloquently testifies to the public sympathy with these great warriors.
Enclosed in a glass case is a walking-stick to which belongs a story showing the kind-heartedness of Queen Alexandra.
Early in the war the Queen-Mother visited the wounded Indian soldiers in hospital at Brighton, and, noticing that one of the officers limped, she inquired of him how he come by his injuries. The officer produced his aluminium ration-box, and explained that a German bullet had struck it, scattering fragments of the metal into his leg and other parts of his body.
Queen Alexandra's sympathy with the Indian officer took a practical form, as she presented him with her own walking-stick to aid him during canvalescence.
Some time afterwards the officer returned to the front, and a brother officer brought the walking-stick to us, as he thought Madame Tussaud's was the best place for it, so that the public should be constantly reminded of Queen Alexandra's deed of kindness.
The stick bears on a silver plate the initial "A," surmounted by the royal crown.
The incident reminds me of another in connection with the same gracious lady which occurred many years ago, when the Exhibition was at the old Port-man Rooms in Baker Street.
Queen Alexandra, who was then the Princess of Wales, had been visiting the Exhibition, and was leaving the building when a poor flower-girl, with a baby in her arms, approached her and, before anyone could intervene, held a small bunch of violets close to the Princess's face, saying, "Buy a bunch of violets, please, lady."
Instead of being annoyed, the Princess accepted the flowers with her usual sweet smile, handed the girl half-a-sovereign, and then entered her carriage and drove away.
The astonished girl kept looking at the coin in her hand, and was quite alarmed when she was told she had held her flowers under the nose of the Princess of Wales; but the remembrance of the Princess's smile soon reassured her, and she went away happy.
In the early days of the war the late Duke of Norfolk, the Duchess, and their two children, the young Earl of Arundel and his sister, Lady Mary Howard, formed a quartette of most interested spectators, and were conducted over the place by the gentleman who had been appointed as War Lecturer to the Exhibition.
He devoted most of his attention to the young people, and relates how the Earl and his sister passed unobtrusively among the exhibits, gaily chatting all the way, no one but he recognising the ducal party.
The Earl was shown, and allowed to handle, a German rifle, then recently captured in Belgium, and he instantly pretended to load the weapon. Then, raising it to his shoulder, he took a level aim at the head of the Kaiser and clicked the trigger.
As the party were retiring, his Grace and the Duchess had a brief consultation, after which the Duke came back to thank the lecturer for the attention he had given his son and daughter.
There were sovereigns in those days, and his Grace offered one to the cicerone, who deferentially declined the gift, saying he had been amply rewarded by the pleasure of the young people's company. "I told the Duchess you wouldn't take it," said the Duke, laughing.