The long reign of King Christian IV (1577-1648) was a turbulent period. At the start of his rule Denmark, forming a unity with Norway, enjoyed great prosperity. By the end his irrepressible urge for military expansion left his people impoverished. In the early seventeenth century Denmark was recognised as the dominant Baltic power, but by the end of his reign this role was gradually taken over by Sweden. During the Thirty-Year War Denmark had to surrender part of Norway to Sweden and was reduced to a second-rate power. In the mid-seventeenth century Sweden’s era was just beginning. The first decade of Christian’s rule was marked by a flurry of palace construction. Between 1596-1600 the king had tennis courts erected at five of his favourite castles: Kronborg, Koldinghus, Frederiksborg, Copenhagen and Skanderborg. Two buildings are still recognisable as former tennis courts: the Teahouse at Frederiksborg Castle and the library at Soro Academy.
A third royal tennis court was commissioned on 18 March 1597, the “kongelige boldhus” at Copenhagen’s castle in the Slotsholmen area. Bernikow was obviously too much involed in other royal tennis court constructions, because the accounts identify Jorgen Friborg as the project’s architect. A plan of Copenhagen castle shows the tennis court at the bottom of the drawing, situated just outside the castle moat. Ole Worm, in his study includes a range of references to Copenhagen’s royal tennis court. The building appears to have been extended in the early seventeenth century to cater for the increasing number of racket players, necessitating a larger court.
King Frederik IV had a new tennis court built during his reign (c. 1720?). The boldhus can be seen in the view Jan Dirksen made of Copenhagen castle in 1728. The Boldhusstraede in Copenhagen bears witness to the site of the tennis court in the seventeenth and eighteenth century. Copenhagen castle was demolished in the 1720s, King Christian VI had a new palace built virtually on the same site on Slotsholmen in 1731, called Christiansborg.
Soro Kloster was transformed into the Danish Knight’s Academy (dansk ridderakademi) in 1623 on the instigation of Christian IV. The Academy was founded to educate his sons and to provide suitable education for young noblemen. The academy’s tennis court was built in about 1628, modelled on the royal Kronborg boldhus.
The tennis court can be seen in Pa Resens’s Atlas Danicus of 1677. The building appears to be the only seventeenth century tennis court that has survived. The original boldhus now serves as the Soro Academy’s Library (see photo). The building has retained the characteristic rectangular shape of a tennis court (measurements c. 32 x 11 metres, 51 x 17.5 alen). Soro Academy employed a keeper of the tennis court (boldmester) for an annual salary of 60 Rdl.
Source: Ole Worm, ‘Boldhuse i Danemark’, Idraetshistorisk Arborg 1991 (VII, Odense University), pp. 34-47