Most of the research for The Man who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo took place in the summer of 2014, when I visited Paris, Marseille, Nice and Monte Carlo to follow in the footsteps of the man himself – Charles Deville Wells. I followed up almost a year later with a second trip, this time to Le Havre, where Wells arrived in 1892 on his huge yacht, the Palais Royal.
It was while he was here, in company with his beautiful French mistress, that he was arrested by French police – a story that’s related in full within the pages of the book.
Today the Quai de la Seine is one of the smaller docks and appears to be virtually unused – or perhaps it was just a quiet day when I visited. The larger vessels using the port now use the more extensive facilities elsewhere, but this was probably a place of some considerable importance in the 1890s when Wells was here. The Palais Royal, almost 300 feet long, was one of the largest pleasure craft in the world at that time, and would have occupied half the length of the basin.
While on the same trip I spotted a boat used for river cruises which was just slightly larger than the Palais Royal. It gives some impression of the scale of Wells’ yacht.