200 years of fame
Millions and millions of people have flocked through the doors of Madame Tussauds since they first opened over 200 years ago and it remains just as popular as it ever was. There are many reasons for this enduring success, but at the heart of it all is good, old-fashioned curiosity. Today’s visitors are sent on a unique, emotionally-charged journey through the realms of the powerful and famous. The museum-style ropes and poles have gone so guests can truly get up, close and personal with A-list celebrities, sporting legends, political heavyweights and historical icons, reliving the times, events and moments that made the world talk about them…
The attraction’s history is a rich and fascinating one, with roots dating back to the Paris of 1770. It was here that Madame Tussaud learnt to model wax likenesses under the tutelage of her mentor, Dr Philippe Curtius. At the age of 17, she became art tutor to King Louis XVI’s sister at the Palace Of Versailles and then, during the French Revolution, was hastily forced to prove her allegiance to the feudalistic nobles by making the death masks of executed aristocrats. Madame Tussaud came to Britain in the early 19th century alongside a travelling exhibition of revolutionary relics and effigies of public heroes and rogues.
At a time when news was communicated largely by word of mouth, Madame Tussauds’ exhibition was a kind of travelling newspaper, providing insight into global events and bringing the ordinary public face-to-face with the people in the headlines. Priceless artefacts from the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars brought to vividly life events in Europe which had a direct bearing on everyday lives. Figures of leading statesmen and, in the Chamber of Horrors, notorious villains put faces to the names on everyone’s lips and captured the public imagination. In 1835, Madame Tussauds’ exhibition established a permanent base in London as the Baker Street Bazaar – visitors paid ‘sixpence’ for the chance to meet the biggest names of the day. The attraction moved to its present site in Marylebone Road come 1884.
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