In week seven of our folk tales from the five London Boroughs, Ruairidh Anderson tells the little known tale of Eliza de Marchpane. A story that begins in the shadows of London’s East End and ends in a culinary delight (can you guess from her name?). Oh, and with a measure of bed hopping in between.
“No matter how bad your working life is, it probably doesn’t carry with it the risk of being gang raped or having to fight for your life in the gutter. But for the girls working the streets and alleyways of Tower Hamlets this was a very real possibility.”
Watch the video and enjoy the inspired song ‘O’ Eliza’.
Eliza de Marchepane
Have you ever had a bad day at work? The printer keeps jamming, or you’ve lost your favourite mug. Perhaps your colleagues have rediscovered photos from last years boozy office party where you highlighted a particular impassioned point on the emotional sensibilities of Arthur Rimbaud’s poetry by throwing up on your shoes and passing out face first into a plate of vol au vents.
But no matter how bad your day was it probably doesn’t carry with it the risk of getting gang raped or fighting for your life in the gutter. Well unless you work in secondary education. However for the women working in the streets and alleyways of London’s old East End in the Tower Hamlets this was a very real possibility.
There was one however who was not only beautiful but clever with it. She realised early on that one day she’d be wandering the streets with no teeth and burning nether regions and so organised a plan to get out of there. She saved up and bought herself an expensive dress and then disappeared from the streets completely, only to reappear again in Paris where she changed her name to the Marchesa Elize dé Marchepane. With her good looks and expensive clothes she managed to fake her way up to the highest circles of French aristocracy. They’d never heard a cockney accent before and assumed it was exotic.
After Eliza’s stay in the French capital, she moved on to the cultural hotspot of Europe, Vienna where she dated Amadeus Mozart among others before returning wealthy, this time to London’s West End where she lived a life of ease and luxury.
After romances with the Prince Regent and an African king Eliza de Marchepane died in Brighton in 1860 but not before leaving her mark on our lives forever. During her time in Vienna she discovered a strange almond paste which she introduced to us here in the UK and called marzipan.