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The great escape

A watering hole for maharajas, princes and PG Wodehouse

Le Touquet-Paris-Plage circa 1920. CAP/Roger Viollet/Getty

The “posh seaside town” of Le Touquet in northern France is renaming its airport after Queen Elizabeth II, says Anthony Peregrine in The Daily Telegraph. It’s hardly surprising – British royals have long flocked to the resort. Edward VIII frequently flew his own plane across the Channel for a spot of golf and a round at the gaming tables. “There was a rumour, undoubtedly pernicious, that he won Mrs Simpson with one hand of five-card stud”. The late queen, then a young princess, “sometimes accompanied him”. To disguise himself, Edward would travel to the resort – which became known as “London-by-the-sea” – under the pseudonym Mr Brown. It “fooled no one” but his visits did inspire a cocktail called “the Prince’s smile” consisting of Cointreau, kirsch, and orange juice.

The royals weren’t the only fans. Gordon Selfridge (founder of the department store) was also a regular. “Unfazed by staking £50,000 a night” at the casino, he often stepped out with the dancing Dolly Sisters, one twin on each arm. “No one was quite sure whether he was having an affair with one, or both. (Further malicious rumours suggested that he wasn’t entirely certain himself.)” Unsurprisingly, standards at the resort were high. At the Hotel Picardie “the indoor pool was filled with sparkling water”, and Indian maharajas would roll in to take over “entire floors”. PG Wodehouse lived nearby from 1934 to 1940, after moving there for the “golf, the casino and the seven-mile beach for walking his dogs”. He loved it so much he completely ignored warnings about the threat of Nazis, right up to the moment he was “hauled off by invading Germans”.