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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Guest Post with Christine Trent

I hope that you all are enjoying HFBRT's A Royal Likeness week. Today The Maiden's Court has the chance to host a brilliant guest post by Christine Trent. Hopefully you can learn some awesome Madame Tussaud trivia!

Top Five List – Madame Tussaud Edition 

Guest Post by Christine Trent, author or 
A Royal Likeness

Many of you probably know that Marie Grosholtz Tussaud, a.k.a. Madame Tussaud, survived the horrors of the French Revolution, took her show to England, and traveled there for thirty years before settling down in a permanent location in northwest London.

But here are a few odd facts about her life in England that you might not know:

1. Married 53 years, together only 8 years.

In 1795, Marie married François Tussaud, an engineer, in Paris. They had two sons, Joseph and François (later to be known by his English name, Francis). In 1802, Marie boarded a ship for England with Joseph and nearly one hundred pieces of her wax collection, hoping to hit it big in Great Britain. She never returned. Although she would later disavow François for his perfectly dreadful financial dealings of her properties in France (the man managed to lose everything he touched), they were never divorced, and their marriage ended only with his death in 1848. Marie followed him to the grave in 1850.

2. She hated that newfangled gas lighting that was all the rage.

At the turn of the 19th century, when Tussaud started her travels in England, gas lighting was first being introduced into the streets and buildings of London. Her first location was the Lyceum Theatre, on the Strand. The owner, Mr. Winsor, decided to install gas lighting, which nearly sent Madame Tussaud into paroxysms of terror. She believed that the risk of conflagration was great, and would surely destroy all of her figures.
Tussaud eventually got over her revulsion. A necessity, really, since gas lamps would eventually replace candles everywhere. Too bad she didn’t live to see the implementation of electric lighting. I’m sure she would have approved.

3. Madame Tussaud modeled herself.

After nearly seven decades of forming wax sculptures of the rich, the famous, and the macabre, Madame Tussaud finally modeled herself in 1842. That self portrait is still on display at the entrance of the London museum. After her death in 1850, her sons, Joseph and Francis, made a death mask of their mother, which still survives.
4. The “Chamber of Horrors” was not her idea.

In Marie’s time, she set up a “Separate Room,” intended to put the more macabre of her subjects (guillotined heads, infamous criminals, and the like) in a distinct area. Not only to protect delicate female sensibilities, but also because she could charge a separate entrance fee for it. Madame Tussaud was the consummate businesswoman! In 1846, a writer for Punch magazine, visited the exhibition, which he thought to be crass and unseemly, and coined the term “Chamber of Horrors.”
By the way, Madame Tussaud purchased the guillotine blade used to execute Marie Antoinette and others. She knew the executioners, a family named Sanson (hey, back then, it was a profession, and the craft was handed from father to son), and they were happy to sell it to her.

5. Truth vs. Fiction, Madame Tussaud Style

There is actually some debate among historians about the veracity of Madame Tussaud’s earlier history, saying that Tussaud’s claims in her own autobiography (published in 1838) were fabrications intended to deceive or titillate the public. For example, Tussaud claimed that her mentor in France, Dr. Philippe Curtius, was her uncle. Some historians think he was really her father. Tussaud claimed to have been imprisoned during the Revolution with such illustrious persons as Josephine de Beauharnais. There seems to be little evidence in prison records to back this up.

My opinion? Tussaud traveled to Great Britain, where she interacted with many French émigrés from the Revolution, particularly in Scotland. Her stories could have been easily discredited. I prefer to give her the benefit of the doubt.
And a little bonus fact: It is spelled Madame Tussauds, not Madame Tussaud’s. The family business began falling apart in the late 19th century. It passed through various corporations and businesses formed to run it, and was eventually operated by The Tussauds Group. No apostrophe. Merlin Entertainments Group bought the Madame Tussauds brand in 2007.

You can visit Christine at her website for additional information about her books.

Also today during the HFBRT event:
A creative post by Lizzy over at Historically Obsessed
Arleigh's review over at Historical-Fiction.com

Copyright © 2010 by The Maiden’s Court


  1. Fascinating, thanks for sharing these! I love the "Chamber of Horrors" bit--savvy lady!

  2. Rowenna, Tussaud was indeed one savvy lady!

  3. I always love the tidbits that come from detailed research. Thank you

  4. This post is fantastic! I've been to Madame Tussauds in London and it's the best wax museum I've ever visited. I really enjoyed reading the facts. Especially that MT bought the guillotine blade. Very cool! I've never read a book about her or a book with her as a character. I'm looking forward to reading LIKENESS!

    Mel K.
    Meljprincess AT aol DOT com

  5. Thank you for this post. I've visited Madame Tussauds myself years ago and loved it!

    I have a giveaway up on my blog. A gift card sponsored by CSN Stores. Please do enter!

  6. Rowenna - she really was a great entrepenuer!

    Christine - Thanks for dropping by!

    Pricilla - it's it amazing the interesting things that you can find?

    Meljprincess and Mystica - I haven't had the chance to go to Madame Tussauds but I really would love to.

  7. Priscilla - it's nice to have you following along on the tour.

    Meljprincess - I agree with you: Madame Tussauds is hands-down the BEST wax museum out there.

    Mystica - you could visit Madame Tussauds over and over and never get tired of it!

  8. Dolleygurl, thank you so much for having me on your blog. Your followers are awesome, and I appreciate having the opportunity to talk about the amazing Madame Tussaud.

  9. Wow married that long and only spent a fraction of the time actually together that is insane. I can see why she ditched him. Interesting very interesting post, loved it! Thank you for sharing.

  10. Lizzy, his sons ditched him, too! At one point, after both adult sons were living with their mother, Monsieur Tussaud went to the sons with his hand out, looking for money. They turned him down. I find it interesting, though, that she never divorced him. My suspicion is that by remaining married, she could avoid any entanglements that might lead to her giving up control of her waxworks to a new husband. But that's my opinion.

  11. Sorry to pop in so late. Thank you for an interesting post. It seems that aside from being an artist with wax, she was a very astute business woman. Good contacts and good timing didn't hurt either. I look forward to reading A ROYAL LIKENESS.
    Good luck with the release.


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