There's many treasures to be found on our beaches, but the one thing I've never found is a beautiful but somewhat slightly creepy, Frozen Charlotte.
Frozen Charlotte is a white bisque doll, created in the 18th century in Germany. Originally created as an innocent bath time novelty, its arrival in the United States in the mid-1800s reminded people of the macabre tale of Frozen Charlotte. It was retold in many formats but the story remained the same.
In 1840 a beautiful but vain young lady named Charlotte was looking forward to a New Year's ball. She'd picked out the perfect gown to show off her porcelain white skin. Now the weather was freezing and the winter wind was biting, it was a particularly harsh night for travelling especially in a sleigh. Charlotte's beau, Charles, was accompanying her to the ball and had already warned her to bundle up, but Charlotte refused. Even her mother pleaded with her:
"Now, daughter dear, put this blanket around you; it’s a dreadful night, and you’ll catch your death of cold.” Charlotte responded, “Nay, Mother, nay.” To ride in blankets muffled up, I never would be seen".
They began the cold sleigh ride to the ball, Charles begged her to wrap herself in a blanket:
"Charlotte rolled her eyes and said, “I’d smell like a horse by the time I reached the ball if I used your old carriage blanket to keep warm.” My silk cloak is quite enough".
To cut a long story short, they eventually arrived at the ball and as Charles took Charlotte's hand to help her down from the sleigh, he noticed it was as cold as ice and frozen solid. Instead of being the belle of the ball and having everyone's eyes on her, she became the corpse of the ball. Charles was so overwhelmed with his grief that he died of a broken heart. The tale goes that they would once again be reunited, buried side-by-side in the village graveyard.
The story became so well known that when these little porcelain dolls were introduced, they were given the name Frozen Charlotte because of their resemblance to a tiny corpse. They were even sold in caskets and baked in cakes. It was said that whoever received the piece of cake with the doll, would be bestowed with good fortune. Male versions of the little macabre toys were called Frozen Charlies.
As with most things from that era, Frozen Charlottes were relatively cheap to buy, so they were discarded quite often, but these days they are considered quite collectable. They usually wash up on beaches and river banks. They can also be found in old Victorian rubbish dumps too.