London Walking Tours    with Joanna Moncrieff

Madame Tussaud’s – A Souvenir Brochure from the 1930s (Part 2)

Back in January 2012 I posted some pictures from a souvenir brochure from Madame Tussaud’s from the 1930s. Part 1 is in the top 5 most read posts on my blog so hopefully Part 2 was worth waiting for!

Looking again at these images I’m struck by how much Madame Tussaud’s has changed in less than 100 years. I haven’t been to the attraction since the 1970s but from looking at the website there appears to be barely any similarity between the Madame Tussaud’s of the 1930s and that of today – they have even erroneously removed the apostrophe from the title of the attraction.

To visit Madame Tussaud’s in the 1930s was more like a history lesson than a fun day out to my mind. There are no tableaux relating to the filmstars of the day as would be expected today.

Even the image of The Sleeping Beauty is from a historical context; the text says it’s a portrait model of Madame St Amarenthe. Digging deeper I find that there were at one time 3 Sleeping Beauties. The first one (created by Madame Tussaud’s uncle Philippe Curtius in Paris in 1765) was modelled on Madame du Barry, mistress of Louis XV; two more were added when the exhibition moved to London both models being made fresh off the scaffold. According to the Foreword to the brochure it is claimed that such was the demand for effigies of victims of the French Revolution that severed heads were brought to Mademoiselle Gresholtz (as she then was before her marriage to M. Tussaud) and she had the grim task of creating the likeness using the severed head as the model.

Madame Tussaud and her famous model of the Sleeping Beauty

The following are the remaining 13 pictures from the brochure – each representing an historic event.

The finding of the body of Harold on the Field of Hastings 1066

The granting of the Magna Charta at Runnymede,1215
The murder of the Princes in the Tower 1483
 I can’t help but think that the executioner in the next tableau looks like Batman’s Robin!

The execution of Mary, Queen of Scots at Fotheringay Castle 1587
The arrest of Guy Fawkes 1605
The death of Nelson 1805

The following image shows the Duke of Wellington “gazing, bareheaded, at the effigy of Napoleon”. The brochure goes on to say that the tableau is a representation of an actual scene which took place in Madame Tussaud’s, on the occasion of the first visit of the Duke of Wellington to the Exhibition.

The body of Napoleon lying in state

The announcement to Queen Victoria of her accession, 1837

The death of General Gordon 1885

As far as I can tell there is only one consistency between the attraction of the 1930s and today – there is still thankfully a waxwork of the founder of the attraction, Madame Tussaud herself.

However technology has obviously moved on a fair bit since the 1930s, the BBC was only created in 1922 and television was only in its infancy in the 1930s. So visiting Madame Tussaud’s as a child of that time would have been a novelty and a change from listening to the radio or reading. Today in London we have loads of fantastic museums so if you want to increase your knowledge of history you know where to go.

However I am a little bit disappointed that there is barely anything left of the attraction as it was back then. Or is there? Have any readers been recently? Is the Sleeping Beauty still there? Or does anyone have memories of Madame Tussaud’s from different periods? I would be interested to learn more. Let me know in the comments below.

The author of this blog (Joanna Moncrieff) is a qualified City of Westminster Tour Guide who specialises in food and drink themed walks in the West End. 
Details of all her walks are listed here.
To sign up to Joanna’s mailing list click here
Follow on Twitter @wwalks
or like on Facebook

5 Responses to Madame Tussaud’s – A Souvenir Brochure from the 1930s (Part 2)

Leave a Reply