I recently visited this castle with a funny flag, but where is it? The grey sky, the Tudor façade and the neat, green grass might indicate England, but it’s not. So where was I?
The answer is the north of France. The exact location will be revealed later. This castle, with its half-British and half-French flag, was built in 1222 by a Frenchman. Since then it’s been commandeered by both the Brits and the French during various wars through the centuries, and legally owned by both nationalities in more peaceful times too. Henry VIII is one of the many members of royalty to have visited the castle.
The castle isn’t just for royalty: Charles Dickens stayed here when it was owned by his friend, Sir John Hare. Apparently, he spent time there with his lover, Ellen Ternan, and the change of scenery may well have influenced his stories or characters.
Another Brit, John Whitley, played a very important role. His work was to increase tourism in the neighbouring beach-side village of Le Touquet-Paris-Plage. After some years and resistance from locals, he focussed his marketing efforts just along the coast, buying the castle and its surrounds in 1897. He decided to market the beach-side village by the castle as a posh holiday spot and sporting mecca, eventually buying huge areas of land in the years to follow. He succeeded, and the village now boasts all sorts of hidden homes on salubrious plots of land among the pine forests, with golf courses nestled close by for the residents to enjoy, plus an an avenue named after him in the heart of the populated forest.
The castle was occupied by the British army during the first world war, and has more recently been used by a scientist and a group of nuns (not at the same time). In 1979, it was used in Roman Polanski’s film, Tess.
Although it’s now owned by the local French council, the castle’s British history lives on today, with exhibitions and events held on the site celebrating British culture. The one thing that definitely shouldn’t be considered British is the name of the castle, which is also the village name. In French, it’s pronounced ‘ard-eh-lor’. In English? Well how would you say ‘Hardelot’?