French Giant Louis Frenz Visits England

The French Giant Louis Frenz or Monsieur Louis gained notoriety for his amazing size. He was well-known in France and because of his popularity there he decided in the nineteenth century to travel to England because just like the giants that existed in “Jack in the Beanstalk” or in “Jack the Giant Killer,” he was enormous in size.

"French Giant" Louis Frenz: Jack the Giant Killer

Jack the Giant Killer. Author’s collection.

Louis Frenza was born in 1801, and, at an early age, he decided to seek his fortune. Like Matthias Buchinger (who had no hands, feet, or thighs), Daniel Lambert (a huge overweight man), or Madame Maria Teresa (a tiny woman who billed herself as the Corsican Fairy), he decided to hold an exhibition. His first one in England supposedly occurred there in 1822 when he appeared at New Bond Street. He had come to England, he naively confessed, to make a fortune and planned to return to France once he accomplished it.

Matthias Buchinger. Public domain.

To earn this fortune, the French Giant usually exhibited himself between 11am and 5pm and between 7pm to 9pm. In addition, in 1825, he charged a shilling for visitors to see him, although servants and children got a reduce rate of half price. One advertisement for the French Giant in 1825 in the Brighton Gazette in part read:

“MONSIEUR LOUIS, the French Giant, Respectfully informs the Nobility, Gentry, and Public in general, that is Exhibiting for a few days, at Mr. Prosser’s, 54 Great East-street Brighton. Monsieur Louis feels confident of highly gratifying those who may visit him, by his appearing like Gulliver in the midst of the Lilliputians, and he assure the Public, that there is no Deception whatever in his height; he measure 7 Feet and 5 inches.”[1]

The French Giant’s claims of his height were about right, although he may have been an inch shorter than he said. Nonetheless, he also maintained that he had a brother taller than himself and he reported that he had two sisters nearly as tall as himself. Those who saw him described him as behaving “most gentlemanly.” He was also described as finely proportioned, something that was unusual as many other giants had some sort of deformity.

His extraordinary size was enough of an anomaly that his picture was engraved and the Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons in London decided to take a cast of his hand. Casting was not unusual and other giants went through the process too as indicated by the following:

“At Madame Tussaud‘s exhibition is a figure of Loushkin, the Russian giant, dressed in his military costume as drum-major of the imperial regiment of Guards, Préobrajenskéy. He measured eight feet five inches high. At the same place are casts of his thigh-bone and tibia, the former being twenty-six inches, and the latter twenty-tow inches long; and also a model of his hand.”[2]

French Giant

French Giant, Monsieur Louis. Author’s collection.

Although the French Giant did not make into Madame Tussaud’s exhibition, there were other events that happened to him while he was visiting England. For example, in August of 1826, he was exiting the Exeter Change, when a man brushed past and stole his silk handkerchief. Monsieur Louis did not notice the theft but another pedestrian did and reported the incident to the gentleman walking with the French Giant. Fortunately, the thief, an urchin with the surname Evans, was quickly apprehended after the policeman boxed his ears. Moments later as a Sir Richard Birnie sat alone in his office at Bow-street, he was visited by the French Giant identifying himself as Monsieur Louis and according to Bell’s Life in London and Sporting Chronicle:

“On Wednesday night this office and the street in front were crowded, in consequence of the fact having become public, that a giant would appear to prefer a charge against a pickpocket for … robbery. – Between seven and eight o’clock Mons. Louis, the French Giant, who is exhibited at the Gothic Hall, Haymarket, arrived in a coach … and was ushered into a private room. … He took his station in front of the magistrates’ desk. Sir Richard Birnie entered the office reading a letter and took his seat without noticing the great personage before him. Shortly afterwards he raised his eye from the paper and they fell on Monsieur Louis. Sir Richard’s face expressed an extraordinary feeling of surprise; he arose form his seat & retreated a few steps, as if he doubted the evidence of his senses. Monsieur Louis, observing the magistrate’s surprise, smiled, and bowed very respectfully. Sir Richard, recovering from his surprise, said, whom have I the honour of seeing before me? – Mr. Woods, the clerk, replied, that it was Monsieur Louis, the French Giant, who has been robbed. Sir Richard: Indeed, he must be bold person who would attack so extraordinary a man.”[3]

When Birnie saw Evans, he knew he was an incorrigible thief and pickpocket and even stated that if he kept up his thieving ways he would be facing the gallows. Then, according to the London Courier and Evening Gazette he was indicted because he had “managed by some tip-toe manoeuvre, to pick the giant’s pocket of his handkerchief, which he passed on to a companion.”[4] Of course, when Evans went before the court, he was quickly found guilty. Monsieur Louis luckily got his handkerchief back and in a magnanimous gesture recommended mercy be given to the petty criminal.

In 1827, a rather humorous incident occurred involving the French Giant. He had business in Portsmouth and decided to travel by coach. This proved tricky as there were three other passengers inside the vehicle. Apparently, however, Monsieur Louis “screwed himself into the smallest possible compass; so as not, in fact, to occupy more than two-thirds of the entire coach.”[5] Everything seemed fine until the coach reached its first stop. At that time, Monsieur Louis told the passengers, he would like to get out and stretch his legs. It was too much for one old lady who shrieked, “Ah! for Heaven’s sake, Sir spare me that! … Be assured, that your legs are of a length perfectly intolerable already!”[6]

Whenever the French Giant appeared, there was always much excitement and interest. The Hampshire Chronicle noted this in their July 1828 report:

“Monsieur Louis, the French giant, is at Chichester. On Wednesday he visited … [Selsey]. He left his carriage at the Crown Inn, and walked to the sea side of the purpose of bathing. The unexpected appearance of this ‘great personnage’ materially attracted the ardent gaze of the islanders, who viewed him with astonishment and admiration.”[7]

The French Giant. Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library.

In August, shortly after his trip to the seaside community of Selsey, Monsieur Louis traveled to Brighton. There he stayed at Scarnell’s, the Sea House Hotel. The Morning Post reported:

“[He] is engaged by Russell to exhibit his herculean person this evening at the Masquerade at the Theatre, where he will doubtless be the largest if not the most attractive character.”[8]

People began to gather for the masked event about eight o’clock. They continued to do so until about midnight. Two days later the Morning Post reported on the masquerade giving these interesting particulars:

“[It was] decidedly one of the prettiest and best-conducted entertainments of the kind ever got up in town. The pit was boarded over, giving to the whole the appearance of a spacious saloon, sparkling with variegated lamps, and the Crown, with G.R. IV, at the stage extremity, in gas lights. … At the latter period the masks and characters numbered at least three hundred, while the boxes were crowded with fashionable spectators at the theatrical admission price. The gallery was also well filled.”[9]

Of course, the center of attraction was the French Giant, which caused the Morning Post to also report that he “looked down with smiles and complaisance upon the comparatively little figures below.”[10]

A few years after Monsieur Louis left England to live off his fortune in France, controversy erupted. Edward Goodacre, who had served as the French Giant’s valet, was indicted for theft in 1834. Allegedly, Goodacre stole a ring from a gentleman named Joseph Burke, who apparently let his apartment out for exhibitions. At least once the French Giant used it. Shortly, thereafter Burke reported his ring missing. Six years later Goodacre was discovered wearing the ring and charged with the theft. However, Goodacre claimed Monsieur Louis had given him the ring, and, so, the jury acquitted him.

References:

  • [1] –, in Brighton Gazette, 29 December 1825, p. 2.
  • [2] Wood, Edward J., Giants and Dwarfs, 1868, p. 199.
  • [3] The Giant and the Prig, in Bell’s Life in London and Sporting Chronicle, 27 August 1826, p. 3.
  • [4] –, London Courier and Evening Gazette, 20 September 1826, p. 4.
  • [5] A Literary Interpretation, in Tipperary Free Press, 10 January 1827, p. 4.
  • [6] Ibid.
  • [7] “Sussex, Surrey, & c.,” in Hampshire Chronicle, 28 July 1828, p. 1.
  • [8] -, Morning Post – 26 August 1828, p. 3.
  • [9] Brighton, Aug. 26, in Morning Post, 28 August 1828, p. 3.
  • [10] Ibid.

Google+ Comments

Loading Facebook Comments ...

Leave a Comment