Deauville was recently (May 2011) the venue for the G8 summit. This elegant Normandy resort has an interesting history.
It is a younger resort than its neighbour, Trouville. But it was whilst in Trouville in the late 1850s that the visionary, Charles Auguste de Morny (1811-1865), staying with his personal physician Doctor Olliffe. They looked over the neighbouring marshlands and resolved to build a new and fashionable resort for the elite of French society.
|Deauville 1863 - Eugene Boudin|
Morny was the half-brother of Emperor Napoleon III and a well-known figure in Parisian life at the time. In 1859 Morny and Dr Ollifee got together with the wealthy banker, Armand Donon (1816-1902). They engaged Parisian architect, Desle Francois Breney, to create “a kingdom of elegance". Morny and Donon already enjoyed a successful business relationship with investments in railways and industry in the Massif Central area of France.
Within a short space of time the project was underway and soon elegant new villas began to take shape and most important, the new resort was linked to Paris by rail. Morny was a keen supporter of horse-racing and Deauville soon had a fine racecourse too.
Over half a century later, in1911, another meeting between two men gave Deauville a new lease of life. Désiré Le Hoc, Mayor of the town and Eugène Cornuché, who managed the famous Maxim’s restaurant in Paris, boosted the town’s activity by building the casino in 1912 and the major hotels (the Normandy in 1912 and the Royal in 1913). The town remained a favourite of the biggest names in both the business and political worlds; this was the “Belle Époque”.
The town also inspired many artists such as Coco Chanel. She opened one of her first boutiques in Deauville, the already famous couturier, Paul Poiret, a number of painters who came to the area for its superb light quality. Other writers, poets, and caricaturists like Apollinaire, Sacha Guitry, Colette, gave the town a further elegant and fashionable era in the 1920s.
Despite Normandy's horrendous experiences in World War II, Deauville soon regained its composure and elegance and has grown into a truly international resort still frequented by the rich and famous. It also remains one of France's major horse-racing centres with its major meetings in July and August with the surrounding area being important for horse breeding.