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

  • Newstalk FM (Ireland)

    News of the book is getting around now!  Earlier this afternoon I spent an enjoyable 15 minutes being interviewed by Sean Moncrieff of Newstalk FM.  He was particularly keen to hear about one of Charles Deville Wells’ victims — a young Irish aristocrat, the Hon. William Cosby Trench, of Castle Oliver, Co. Limerick.

    Trench was persuaded by Wells to invest in an invention which was supposed to economise on coal in steam engines.  Trench invested the equivalent of £1 million, and never received a penny of it back.  A judge told him that he was still a young man and it would be best if he were to grow wiser as well as older.  He seems to have followed this advice and later in life he became High Sheriff of County Limerick.

  • The value of money

    Last week’s Daily Mail article, based on my book, The Man who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo, appeared under the heading,


    It continues by saying that with an initial stake of £4,000 he won £40,000 — equivalent to £4 million in today’s money.  A reader in Harrogate questioned this, saying: “So he actually only won £40,000. Another misleading DM headline!!!”

    It looks as if a brief explanation might be called for here!  Where sums of money are mentioned in the book, I give the actual sum (such as £40,000) followed by the same sum with an extra two zeros (in this case £4,000,000).  This gives a rough modern-day equivalent based on the Retail Price Index, which reflects changes in the costs of everyday goods over time.

    But it is not quite as simple as that!  While a basket of shopping has only gone up about 100 times, wages and salaries are about 440 times what they were in 1891.  On this scale, Wells’ winnings would be closer to £17.5 million.  And when Wells returned to London with his winnings, he could have chosen to invest the money in property.  With a typical house selling in those days for £300, he might have purchased about 130 properties.  Assuming an average house price today of around £280,000, to buy the same estate would now need over £36 million.

    So, to answer the Harrogate reader’s question, it can’t be said that the Daily Mail has exaggerated Wells’ winnings: in fact, depending which formula you use, the rule of “Victorian value times 100” generally errs on the low side.

    The relative value of various sums of money over time is explained better, and in more depth than I can achieve here, at

  • Word is getting around … !

    It was great to see coverage of The Man who Broke the Bank in Friday’s Daily Mail.  My thanks to journalist David Leafe for his article.

    man who broke bank monte carlo charles deville wells gambling room salon robin quinn roulette
    One of the gambling halls at the Monte Carlo Casino
  • Keeping track of a bank-breaker
    Danger! Author at work. Robin Quinn man who broke bank monte carlo charles deville wells wall chart
    Danger! Author at work.

    I found it a little difficult to keep track of Charles Wells’ activities, as so much happened between his arrival in Britain from France in about 1883, and the period just after his epic bank-breaking adventures.  Just over a year ago, when I was making the transition from the research phase to actually writing the book, I made the wall chart (pictured).  It drew a number of threads together, and made it much easier to see at a glance what was happening to Charles Wells, and the other important people in his story.

    In addition I compiled an overall timeline covering his whole life.  It started off as an A4 sheet of paper with a few lines on it, and ended up as a file with over 200 pages and around 700 separate entries.  From this the first draft of the biography of Charles Wells was put together.


  • Interview on 105 Uckfield FM

    I very much enjoyed being interviewed yesterday by Lynn Briggs, drivetime presenter at 105 Uckfield FM.

    We talked about Charles Wells – his inventions, his amazing successes at Monte Carlo, and his many brushes with the law over the years.  Lynn played a brief snippet of Charles Coborn performing The Man who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo, which probably jogged a few memories in and around Uckfield!

    My sincere thanks to Lynn and her colleagues for this opportunity for people to hear about the book, (which is now on sale, by the way!)

    The interview is now available to play on demand on the home-page of Uckfield FM: