Sporting Style

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What to wear on the ‘tenys playe’

The real tennis court at Hampton Court Palace. Refurbished in 1628, it's the oldest surviving real tennis court in England.

The real tennis court at Hampton Court Palace. Refurbished in 1628, it’s the oldest surviving real tennis court in England.

With record-breaking prize funds and Murray mania, we might think tennis today is more popular than ever. But has it ever been made illegal in England for being too addictive? Has the Pope ever tried to ban it? Has it been responsible for the death of at least four European kings and a Prince of Wales? Do the British royal family play it with lace-trimmed racquets? Has it been used as a declaration of war?

Yes, lawn tennis has got a long way to go to reach the level of influence that real tennis had over the 600 or so years it was the only game in town. In case you didn’t know, real tennis is the game played with small wooden racquets and hand-made balls on those indoor courts with miniature sloping roofs and galleries and nets with bells on and about a bajillion angles to contend with. Some of those original courts survive, and lots of people still play the sport, so we know where and how it was played, but what did those original players wear?

Now this blog mainly features women’s tennis outfits, but while medieval and Tudor women were avid fans of watching tennis, and gambling on the results (Anne Boleyn was taken from a tennis match to be charged with adultery and at first was more annoyed that she hadn’t had a chance to collect her winnings), I haven’t found any images of them playing the game, so it’s a case of men’s tennis style for this post.

 

Find out more about real tennis:

The Royal Tennis Court, Hampton Court Palace website

Leamington Tennis Club website Full of fascinating facts about real tennis and lawn tennis

On the Tudor Trail blog: this page has a great short video explaining the basics of real tennis and good links to further reading etc.

Court Tennis in the USA website (the US name for real tennis)

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