In our September-October 1985 issue we published an article by Colin Parry entitled ‘Beautiful Forever’ proving that even as far back as 1868 women who wished to improve their looks were open to fraud just as they can be nowadays. Colin told the story of a lady who called herself Madame Rachel. Rachel was sentenced to five years penal servitude for extracting money from middle aged ladies on the pretence of making them ‘beautiful forever’.
After being declared bankrupt in 1862 she was nevertheless determined to make her fortune. In 1861 a Colonel Alfred Borrodaile of the Madras Light Infantry died, leaving his wife a widow. Mary, hoping to marry again, set her sights on the 7th Viscount Ranelagh and was so determined that, patently deceived, she paid Madame Rachel the then enormous sum of £5,300 to make her ‘beautiful forever’. Inevitably the ministrations failed and Madame was tried for false pretences between 22 and 25 September 1868, found guilty, and was sentenced to five years penal servitude. Her sentence was reduced for good behaviour and she was released on a ticket of leave in 1872. Wasting no time in getting back to business she set up a shop at 29 Duke Street, Portland Place, London.
All went well until 1877, when Cecilia, the wife of stockbroker Godfrey Pearse, having handed over a quantity of jewellery in exchange for being made beautiful forever was not satisfied with the result. Madam Rachel appeared before Baron Huddleston at the Central Criminal Court from 10 to 11 April 1878 on the now familiar charge of false pretences and once again received a sentence of five years penal servitude, Disappearing behind the door of Millbank prison. By 15 July 1878 she was clearly a sick woman, and was transferred to Woking prison where she was found to be suffering from a combination of rheumatism, heart disease and dropsy to which she succumbed in the prison hospital on Tuesday 12 October 1880.
Rachel had seven children by her mutiple husbands, one of whom was a singer named Rosa Cromond who, says the author, had a less than humdrum life but that is another story.
For readers who may be interested in possible relationships with the lady, she firstly married a chemist from Manchester, whose name was not mentioned but from where she no doubt obtained her extensive knowledge of perfumes, face enamels and cosmetics. Her second marriage to James Moses ended abruptly when he was in the sinking of the Royal Charter on 26 October 1859. At this time she was established as a hair restorer at 5 Conduit Street. She may have benefited materially from James’s untimely death, since she took over a premises in New Bond Street, under the name of ‘Madam Rachel, Enameller and Vendor of Cosmetics’. In this year she married a Philip Nevison who kept a a fried fish shop in Vere Street, Clare Market.