The Shah's Jewels

The Shah of Persia 1873; Wikipedia - Naser al-Din Shah Qajar

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 Marie Tussaud, founder of the waxworks museum, Madame Tussauds; Wikipedia-Marie Tussaud

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Waxwork of the murderer, Franz Müller

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Between 18 June and 5 July 1873, His Imperial Majesty the Shah of Persia, Naser-al-Din paid his first visit to Britain, during a European tour. Persia was strategically important to Britain, not least in the need to maintain good relations with those countries that provided land access to Britain’s colonies in Asia, particularly India. As always on State occasions, and during State visits, the Metropolitan Police were involved in providing security.  As the press reported later, George Clarke was given a special job to do:

“When the Shah of Persia visited this country, the Government thought it right to take special precautions to guard the diamonds which were so profusely displayed by His Majesty on his public appearances.  Wherever the Shah went, Chief Detective-Inspector Clarke of Scotland-yard was at his heels…”.1

The Shah’s position had enabled him to amass a personal fortune and a large collection of such precious stones.  No newspaper report during his visit failed to mention them:

“Seen from all sides and with thousands of eyes bent on him, no one could fail to admire the Shah’s easy bearing, warm interest, and graceful acknowledgment of the loud acclamations.  The diamond-banded coat, whose splendours have been on every tongue, was replaced by a uniform with a great deal of white facing completely covered by thickly-sown pearls, and studded on collar and cuffs by rosettes of large diamonds.  Across the shoulder the Shah wore a double row of enormous pearls, divided every two inches by large emeralds.  In his Majesty’s kaftan, of plain black cloth, a diamond aigrette was fastened”.2

During his time in Britain, one of the visits most enjoyed by the Shah was to Madame Tussauds.3  It would be nice to think that Clarke might have had the opportunity to point out to the Shah that he was at least partly responsible for the Franz Müller waxwork in the Chamber of Horrors. (Clarke had arrested Müller, the murderer of Thomas Briggs, in August 1864; see 'The Chieftain' pp. 30-51).

Notes: 1. Liverpool Mercury 18 June 1875; 2. The Times 24 June 1873; 3. Diamond, M. (2003) Victorian Sensation; Or the Shocking and the Scandalous in Nineteenth Century Britain. Anthem Press. pp.29-32.

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