Robin Quinn | The Man Who Broke The Bank

The Man Who Broke The Bank - Cover Image


About the book

Essential reading for lovers of Victorian true-crime stories. The book takes readers on a roller-coaster ride through Britain, France and Monaco in the company of one of the greatest swindlers of the era as he pulls off one breath-taking coup after another. His amazing win at Monte Carlo is just one of many highlights in this true story, which reaches a climax when Wells is pursued across Europe in one of the biggest man-hunts of all time.

The Man Who Broke The Bank
Hardcover; e-book

Order now: Amazon, Waterstones, WHSmiths, iTunes.
Read excerpts on Google Books.

Now available as an audio book on CDs
And as an audio download

Newspaper clipping: MONTE CARLO WELLS was for the time the most famous man in Europe.  He eclipsed every other social notable.  His wealth was supposed to be immense, and everything he touched turned into gold.  He became the theme of every music hall and pantomime ditty.  No comedy of the day was complete without a reference to the man who broke the bank. [AUCKLAND STAR, 31 MARCH 1906]

FACTFILE: Charles Deville Wells aka ‘Monte Carlo Wells’ aka ‘The Man Who Broke The Bank At Monte Carlo’

Fact #1Fact #2Fact #3Fact #4
In 1891, during two visits to the Casino at Monte Carlo, Charles Deville Wells broke the bank several times and won £60,000 (equivalent to £6 million today). The present owners of the Casino admit that his success has never been satisfactorily explained. In ‘The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo’, author Robin Quinn sets out the possibilities .
The Casino at Monte Carlo
To ‘break the bank’ means to clean out the cash reserve of the gambling table in question. Each table was stocked with 100,000 francs in cash at the start of each day. If a player ‘broke the bank’, that table was temporarily closed and was covered with a black cloth.
The steam yacht Palais Royal, formerly Tycho Brahe
Soon after he broke the bank, Charles Deville Wells bought an old cargo ship, the Tycho Brahe, and converted her into a luxury yacht, re-naming her Palais Royal. At 291 feet in length, the vessel was one of the largest pleasure craft in the world. Even today, she would be in the top-50 of yachts in terms of size.
After Charles Wells broke the bank in 1891, his exploits inspired composer Fred Gilbert to write a song entitled – naturally – The Man Who broke the Bank at Monte Carlo. This became the hit song of a generation and remained popular for well over half a century. The singer most closely associated with it, Charles Coborn, made at least five separate records featuring the tune, and once said he had performed it on stage a quarter of a million times.

Blog: The Man Who Broke The Bank

  • On this day 125 years ago: 3 August 1891
    man broke bank monte carlo charles deville wells gambler fraudster extraordinaire
    The casino at Monte Carlo – a present-day view of one of the gambling salons

    Monday, 3 August, was a bank holiday — one of the country’s few days off work, a rare day of rest for the majority of people.  Britain woke from its weekend slumber — and then went back to sleep again for a bit longer.

    It was a day for trips to the seaside, to the countryside, to circuses, fairs, and other attractions.  In the London area over 50,000 visited the Crystal Palace, while an estimated 80,000 made their way to Hampstead Heath for the fair.

    That day’s newspapers carried fresh reports of Wells and his incredible gambling feats at Monte Carlo — a good-luck story that resonated perfectly with the happy holiday atmosphere.

    REMARKABLE WINNINGS (Reuter’s Telegram)

    Mr. Wells, who won within a few days £20,000 at the table here, won a further sum of £6,000 yesterday.  Extraordinary luck again favoured him today, for he won no less than £14,000 at trente-et-quarante.  The table was surrounded by a large crowd, and intense excitement prevailed, such persistent good fortune having never been witnessed before.  Mr. Wells, whose winnings commence to have an effect on the bank, keeps two secretaries to assist him in his transactions.

    Charles Deville Wells was already on his way to becoming a legend.  Yet in many ways his unbelievable story was only just beginning …

    [This ends my day-by-day account of the events of 125 years ago.  But there will be more daily coverage of “future” events in the Charles Deville Wells timeline.  I’ll be posting more information about his adventures over the days, weeks and months to come.  Watch this space!]
  • Radio Interview on 105 Uckfield FM

    I’ve been invited to appear today on local radio station, Uckfield FM, as a guest of drivetime presenter Lynn Briggs, to talk about The Man who Broke the bank at Monte Carlo.  The show is on the air between 4.00 p.m. and 7.00 p.m.

    Uckfield FM serves the town of Uckfield, East Sussex, and surrounding district, on 105 FM and online here.

  • On this day 125 years ago: 2 August 1891

    Today Charles Deville Wells’ first visit to Monte Carlo was almost over.  Having observed his astonishing achievements for several days, the local correspondent for Reuter’s News Agency telegraphed this report to Britain, where it would appear in the next day’s editions of many of the newspapers:

    the casino at monte carlo where charles deville wells broke the bank at roulette and trente et quarante
    The Casino at Monte Carlo. A view on the southern aspect.

    Mr. Wells, the Englishman who had so extraordinary a run of luck last week at the gaming tables here, winning over £20,000 at roulette [equivalent to £2 million], continues to be favoured by the same good fortune.  Finding the luck turning against him, he had the prudence to quit the table at which he had been assiduously playing day after day from the opening of the Casino till its close.  Before leaving the building, however, he risked a few stakes at another game, trente-et-quarante [a casino game played with cards], and, winning each, continued to play till he had further increased his gains by the sum of 160,000 f, or close upon £6,400 [£640,000 today].  Mr. Wells at trente-et-quarante follows the same system that proved so successful at roulette – the famous ‘coup des trois’ – that is to say, following the luck till he has won thrice in succession, and then withdrawing the accumulated stake.  People here and at Nice are talking of nothing but his marvellous success.


  • Book now available

    ‘The Man who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo – Charles Deville Wells, gambler and fraudster extraordinaire’ is now available from the following online booksellers:

    WH Smith £12.99 (hardback) £7.19 (e-Book)

    Waterstones £18.99 (hardback)

    Amazon £15.90 (hardback) £6.64 (e-Book)

    … or ask at your local bookshop!  (Information believed correct at the time of writing).

  • On this day 125 years ago: 1 August 1891
    Casino exterior
    The Casino at Monte Carlo. One night in 1891 Charles Wells crossed the square (foreground) to his hotel, staggering under the weight of a million francs in banknotes and slept with them under his pillow.

    On this day in 1891, early reports of Charles Wells and his success at the Monte Carlo Casino were trickling in.  This brief bulletin in The Times was typical:


    Charles Deville Wells man broke bank monte carlo gambler fraudster extraordinaire robin quinn author victorian edwardian true crime
    Charles Deville Wells, the Man who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo, pictured some years after his gambling coup at the casino.

    An Englishman named Wells, who is staying here, has just had a run of luck so extraordinary as to be the chief topic of the hour, not only with those who frequent the Casino, but among the residents of Monte Carlo generally.  For the last three days this gentleman has played roulette incessantly, and during that time has won no less than £20,000 [equivalent to at least £2 million today] …

    So engrossed was this fortunate gambler that never once did he stir from his seat or partake of food during the 11 hours of play.  He won several stakes of 26,000 f, and twice consecutively backed the number one ‘en plein’ successfully for 8,000 f, the maximum amount allowed.  He also frequently backed with similar good fortune the even chances – red, odd and even, ‘marque,’ and ‘passe’ – and more than once won all these stakes at the same time.  It is stated that he has sent on all his winnings to England, so as to place himself beyond the temptation of losing them by further operations at the gaming tables.