Learn more about the favourite game of Henry VIII
Updated 2 July. Following government guidance, some of the outdoor spaces at Hampton Court Palace are now open Wednesday-Sunday. Palace interiors will reopen 17 July. The Magic Garden and Maze remain closed. Please read our visit information
Learn about the favourite game of Henry VIII at the Royal Tennis Court, where kings and their courtiers once enjoyed this fast-paced, exciting sport.
The display in the viewing gallery includes handmade balls, life-sized character illustrations and custom-made racquets.
As a young man, Henry VIII was athletic, graceful and loved sports, especially tennis. He was a keen and talented player who spent hours on court.
In 1519, the Venetian Ambassador wrote: 'it was the prettiest thing in the world to see him play; his fair skin glowing through a shirt of the finest texture'.
The first tennis court at Hampton Court Palace was built for Cardinal Wolsey between 1526 and 1529.
The current tennis court was built for Charles I in 1625. Three of its walls date from this period and the external wall to the right of the viewing gallery is one of Cardinal Wolsey's originals.
Learn more about the long history of real tennis in this short film.
The Real Tennis Champions Trophy takes place at Hampton Court Palace every summer, supported by Mitsubishi Electric. Tickets for the next tournament will go on sale in early 2020.
The Hampton Court Palace tennis club is for private members. Non-members and visitors are permitted into the viewing gallery to watch a game.
The club may close at short notice for private events and maintenance. However, it is a very active club, with many members, so your chances of seeing a game in play when the viewing gallery is open are very high.
The club offers an introduction to the game, and if you like it you can apply to be a member.Visit The Royal Tennis Court website
Real tennis is the original indoor racquet sport from which the modern game of tennis is descended. It only acquired its 'real' tag at the end of the 19th century to distinguish it from the new-fangled 'lawn' tennis.
One of the first English guides to tennis in 1553 claimed, 'this game has been created for a good purpose, namely, to keep our bodies healthy, to make our young men stronger and more robust, chasing idleness, virtue’s mortal enemy, far from them and thus making them of a stronger and more excellent nature'.
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