I adore tennis, even if I’m a crap player, and use the Wimbledon fortnight as an excuse to take a break from writing. Well, someone has to cheer on the one and only Brit who ever does any good in our national tournament. Really, it’s sooo embarrassing, especially since Murray’s Scottish but, hey, we’re desperate.
Did you know that Real Tennis, dubbed the sport of kings, originated in France? The word tennis comes from the French tenez, meaning ‘take heed’. Very wise if you’re at the opposite end of the court to me, my directional shots kinda lacking direction if you get my meaning! Anyway, royal interest in England began with Henry V in 1413 but it was good old Henry VIII who really took the game to heart. Well, I guess he had to escape from all those wives somehow. Rumour has it that Anne Boleyn was watching a game when she was arrested and Henry was supposedly playing when news was brought to him of her execution.
The game was played on indoor courts, rather like the one pictured here, still in use at Hampton Court.
It reminds me of an over-sized squash court. Not surprising really when you consider that shots can bounce off the walls and even from openings in the roof. Weird, or what?
Lawn tennis as we know it didn’t come into being until Victorian times so during the Regency era our idly rich young bucks probably took to the courts and got rid of their aggression by whacking the balls—similar in size and make up to modern tennis balls, covered by woollen cloth—all over the place. A good way to show off their physiques and impress their wives—or more likely, other people’s wives, I’d have thought. The attached picture, taken from an earlier era, gives some idea what it must have been like.
I shall definitely have to learn more about the game and put it in a future book.
Right, now you’ll have to excuse me. The third ladies quarter final is about to start.