The Queen Mother lingers in the wings with the patience of a saint, as the rest of the the Royal Family — all alive at the time of writing — pose for pictures. Whether or not the 'exit' sign by the Queen Mum is intentional (who'll be next to follow her out?), it adds a swatch of black comedy to the tableau — which is then compounded by Diana standing across from the lot of them in an afterlife of her own. She appears detached yet serene; her eyes suggesting she knows something the Royals don't. Even when a woman wielding a selfie stick slides her shoulder around the erstwhile princess, Di retains her eerie composure.
Death, it seems, stalks every corner of Madame Tussauds, and turns up in all kinds of curious scenarios. Jonah Lomu attends his own funeral in an All Blacks kit, a vase of lilies and an actual book of condolences next to him. Down in the Chamber of Horrors, serial killer John Christie is sentenced to death then hanged again and again and again. As the trapdoor slaps opens and Christie takes the drop, a girl screams, covers her face, then starts to giggle.
Death stalks every corner of Madame Tussauds... Jonah Lomu attends his own funeral in an All Blacks kit, a vase of lilies and a book of condolences next to him.
You can write it all off as tasteless and cynical, but then death is how London's world famous waxwork emporium came about. Before seeking her fortune in London, Strasbourg-born Marie Tussaud was forced to make the death mask of Marie Antoinette, along with those of many other doomed aristocrats. After nearly having her own head cut off, Tussaud opted to seek her fortune in London, and by 1835, had her own showroom on Baker Street. The big draw in those early days? The Chamber of Horrors.
Blood and guts no longer pulls in the punters now (other London attractions are dedicated to that) but Madame Tussauds — and this one, rather than the one in Amsterdam or Bangkok or Sydney or Vegas or Wuhan — has become an experience so big, it's on people's bucket lists. "It's something you have to do once in your lifetime," Stephanie, from Switzerland tells us, before going to seek out Patrick Stewart.
Stephanie is not alone in her thinking; we've stood in a queue for a good 40 minutes — Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballé belting out Barcelona — before we're finally whisked up in a lift, and spat out into a kind of VIP garden party on pause; Benedict Cumberbatch, Julia Roberts, Russell Brand, Dame Judi Dench and the Beckhams are all here but something's not quite right; not only is there no champagne circulating, someone's let in the hoi polloi, and they're running amok.
But do people really still get in a lather about the wax likeness of Tom Hanks? Judging by the way they're bounding around the place, yes. Réka from Hungary, in her 30s, is visiting London with her partner, and laughs when asked what brought her here: "Because we love the films." She's here to see "Julia Roberts... and the Twilight... Robert Pattinson," she confirms, then giggles, as if she's about to meet the actual R Pattz.
It's something you have to do once in your lifetime.
Michelle, visiting London from Stockholm, has seen Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and Tower Bridge. What's been her favourite? She answers without a beat: "Harrods. Second floor."
And why Madame Tussauds? "Why not? It's a thing, right? You have to see it when you're in London.
"Who have I come to see? Erm, Benedict! He's hot. And I think Jennifer Aniston maybe... is Jennifer Aniston here? I hope so. My mum loves her."*