I first came across a Frozen Charlotte when I used to visit my lovely friend Diana Swayne (sadly she passed away at the impressive age of 104). Diana was a passionate collector of antique dolls and bears - very apt given my heroine Kat Stanford's profession in the Honeychurch Hall series. I was so fascinated - or should I say, freaked out by these creepy dolls that she gifted one to me. I was determined to find a way to put one of them into a story and so Murder in Miniature was born.
Naturally, I did a lot of research.
Frozen Charlottes were very popular between 1850 and 1920. They were also known as pillar dolls, solid china's, or bathing babies. Most had glazed china fronts with unglazed stoneware backs so that they could float on their backs in the bath. The hair was nearly always human hair.
These ghoulish dolls earned their name from Seba Smith, an American journalist who had written a poem called A Corpse Going to a Ball in 1843. There have been several versions of the original but in a nutshell, the cautionary tale tells of a young, vain girl who refused to wrap up warmly to go on a fifteen-mile sleigh ride because she did not want to cover up her pretty dress; she froze to death during the journey. The moral of the story? To always listen to your mother!
Little known fact: In Victorian times a frozen Charlotte was often put inside a Christmas pudding. This tradition continues to this day—although not with creepy dolls. Today, a silver coin is slipped into the uncooked pudding mixture which is then stirred by each member of the family. It's considered good luck to be the person who finds it on Christmas Day.