Lady Pompidoo, one of the most respected French aristocrats and a direct descendant of Empress Eugénie who fled the Tuileries, a royal palace that was destroyed in 1871 for Great Britain had been settled in Britain for many years but still held a passion for French pastries and sweets. The arrival of a new chef at her estate Pompidoo Hall was greeted with delight, finally she had managed to secure one of the most revered chef and master of the new ‘fondant’ method first pioneered in 1877, Chef Charles Ranhofer (November 7, 1836, Saint-Denis, France — October 9, 1899, New York) for three months.
Charles Ranhofer set to work in the extensive kitchens and produced some of the most magical creations of his career, from the huge Crème de la mountain fountain to the fabulous Choux Pistache aux Fruits Rouges with Rum Baa-baa et Flambé. His crowning glory though was a delicate little cake filled with a fondant cream and decorated with four delightful colours each one to represent memorable characters in Shakespears plays. Othello was represented by chocolate, Desdemona by white, Lago was coffee and the fourth pink after Rosalind from ‘As You Like It’. A drizzle of a second colour set off the whole thing and they quickly became Lady Pompidoo’s favourite.
The three months went very quickly for Lady Pompidoo and she amassed vast stocks of French Fancies which were kept securely in a special room called the Cakeararium, an exquisitely decorated room reminiscent of a pre French Revolution boudoir filled with rare and expensive furniture. Only Lady Pompidoo was allowed entry and she would sit for hours looking out over her vast estate delicately eating her beloved French Fancies.
Then one day she noticed a rather odd thing, a gap had appeared in her precious stocks, immediately she summoned her servants. It was impossible, not only did all the servants deny taking any but they also pointed out that Lady Pompidoo had the only key to the room.
After much discussion Lady Pompidoo allowed one of her most trusted maids to hide in the forbidden room whilst a tray of French fancies was placed temptingly on the table in full view. Shortly before midnight the maid heard a noise sounding like footsteps and leaped out to surprise the thief. Instead she was surprised to find herself standing face to face with an ornate tallboy in the centre of the room and promptly fainted, a piece of furniture that Lady Pompidoo had recently acquired from the sale of items from Hamilton Palace.
The next day the maid told her curious tale to Lady Pompidoo who, whilst full of doubt decided to investigate. Holding a French fancy up to the tallboy elicited no response, neither did a full plate of fancies so she popped the plate on the table and went to return to the maid. Only then did she hear the slightest noise of a drawer being opened as she approached the door, turning around quickly she caught the sight of a drawer quickly closing.
So there was something in there. Very slowly she took over the plate of fancies and softly spoke to the tallboy. After a few minutes Lady Pompidoos soft and reassuring voice elicited a response. From out of the top draw came the most beautiful sight of a furry pink nosed head with amber eyes and the tallboy tentatively shuffled forward. Delicately picking up a French fancy with its mouth slowly the bottom draw opened to reveal two more woolly faces, this time with lemon and purple noses. Gently the French fancy was passed down to the drawers occupants who purred with delight.
Lady Pompidoo and her French Fancy Filly as she called it could regularly be seen at Pompidoo Hall sharing plates of French Fancies, a friendship that lasted many years and was commemorated in this painting. A painting which Charles Burroughs our renowned explorer was commissioned to paint and eventually formed part of a brief touring exhibition of his works inspiring furniture makers of the time to adopt the French Fancy Filly’s delicate curves and detailing into their work.
Records show that the French Fancy Filly is still out there, so should you come across a tall white set of French drawers don’t forget to check all the drawers and of course always have plenty of French fancies available.