The game we call real tennis (and until recently royal tennis) in Australia is also called real tennis in the UK, jeu de paume in France, court tennis in the USA, or perhaps more correctly, tennis. It has its origins in Europe during the Middle Ages. Though tennis is traditionally thought of as the game of kings, early records show that it was widely played among the French clergy. It is thought the monastic style buildings lent themselves to games played within the quadrangles and games that utilised the walls. The balls were first made from the monks’ discarded robes. Among the English kings Henry VII, Henry VIII, Charles I and Charles II and James II are all known to have played, with Henry VIII being responsible for the Royal court, which still exists at Hampton Court Palace.

One of the best-known references to the game occurs in Shakespeare’s Henry V when Henry threatens to “strike his father’s crown into the hazard” after having been insulted by the Dauphin’s gift of a basket of balls. There is, however, no record of Henry V having played the game.

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