Monday 23 March 2020

Le Touquet: The final model for Royale-les-Eaux

Back in 2015, I explored the possible inspirations for the fictional seaside resort of Royale-les-Eaux, introduced in the first James Bond novel, Casino Royale (1953) and revisited in On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1963). I noted that the location had shifted between novels, being first on the Côte Picarde on the south side of the Somme estuary before moving north to the Côte d'Opale in Pas-de-Calais.

A trip last year to explore the French locations in Goldfinger (1959) took me first to Le Touquet, from where James Bond begins his pursuit of the gold-obsessed villain. The idea that Royale-les-Eaux is based, at least in part, on Le Touquet is not new. Jon Gilbert, for example, suggests as much in his 2012 volume, Ian Fleming: The Bibliography. However, a few days on Le Touquet's beach brought home to me just how closely some aspects of the fictional town, as described in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, were modelled on the French resort. 

Take the swimming pool mentioned by Ian Fleming in the opening chapter of the novel: 'Music, one of those lilting accordion waltzes, blared from the loudspeakers around the Olympic-sized piscine.' Le Touquet's beach-side piscine was certainly large enough to qualify as 'Olympic-sized' and could well have been what Fleming (a frequent visitor to the resort) had in mind as he wrote those words. 

The swimming pool, Le Touquet-Paris-Plage, in 1965

Ian Fleming then descibes three childrens' play areas on the beach of Royale-les-Eaux: Joie de Vivre, Helio and Azur. Today, there are six children's play areas on Paris-Plage, among them Joie de Vivre and Helio Plage. Whether these existed in Fleming's day, I can't be certain, but clearly Fleming had not conjured up the names purely from his own imagination.

Then there is the length of the promenade at Royale-les-Eaux: a full five miles, which is pretty much the length of the beach of Le Touquet-Paris Plage. 

While Ian Fleming did not base Royale-les-Eaux entirely on Le Touquet (Trouville and Forges-les-Eaux, I think, were equally important sources of inspiration), the descriptions of the fictional town, in its later incarnation, owed much to the resort. If you were to look at images of Le Touquet in the 1960s, then you could well be looking at how Ian Fleming pictured his creation and the opening scenes of one his finest novels.     

Sunday 8 March 2020

Ian Fleming, the conservationist

Ian Fleming seems an unlikely champion of animal rights, but the evidence is there in his writing. That he was an animal-lover is clear from his heartfelt descriptions of animals, particularly birds and fish, in his James Bond novels. Scotland's red deer were also close to his heart. 
Red deer hind (image: Charles J Sharp / CC BY-SA (
In his 'Atticus' column, published in the Sunday Times on 7th November 1954, Ian Fleming lamented the cruel and unnecessary killing of deer during the winter months, when the onset of snows forced the animals to lower pastures. There, Fleming told his readers, the stags and hinds made easy targets for farmers and poachers, 'who slaughter and wound them with whatever weapons they can muster.'

Fleming went on to refer to a parliamentary White Paper on the issue, which, while setting out the sad facts, had evidently failed to put a halt to the annual dispatch of deer. 'Eight months of cruelty to these beautiful animals has once again set in,' he concluded.

Unlike his brother Peter, Ian Fleming was no country-sports enthusiast. Once, as a boy, Ian was taken grouse-shooting near Glencoe in Scotland by his father Valentine, but he didn't enjoy the experience. On another occasion, at Black Mount also near Glencoe, Ian (aged 16) shot a stag, but he never made a habit of it, preferring to listen to records than going 'out of doors killing something.' 

Given Ian Fleming's concern for red deer, the depiction of a stag (itself presumably a nod to the stag shown on the Fleming family crest) on top of the gateway to James Bond's Scottish home in Skyfall (2012) seems entirely fitting.