Royal Tennis Courts
Real Tennis history in Europe
European Royal Tennis Courts
The History of Tennis Website has undertaken to compile a database of aristocratic (= royal) tennis courts in Europe (1450-1800). Virtually all the courts that were laid out at palaces and noble manor houses have been destroyed in the course of time, but most countries can pride themselves on a number of tennis monuments, buildings that have retained some or most of their original structure.
Great Britain can boast two perfect examples: the (open) Royal Tennis Court at Falkland Palace in Scotland, which dates from 1539, and the Royal Tennis Court at Hampton Court of c. 1626.
Another active court can be found in France, the Jeu de Paume at Fontainebleau castle. This court was built in 1732, virtually on the same site as a previous tennis court that fell victim to the flames in 1702. Another famous French tennis court that still exists is the Royal Jeu de Paume (built in 1686) at the Versailles Palace, the venue of the famous Tennis Court Oath of 1789.
The European Royal Tennis Court Database will feature records of noble tennis courts that have cropped in a variety of sources, including references that could be traced on the internet. All records have been carefully monitored and if necessary checked with the relevant tourist boards and historical societies.
Still it is possible that the list includes buildings that were never used as tennis courts. We would appreciate to receive feedback if visitors of the website have more information on the status of tennis courts included in our database. In addition we would welcome new entries.
The list is by no means complete, and we should bear in mind that it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between commercial tennis courts (in the city) and the private courts that belonged to members of the nobility. This database focuses on aristocratic courts because compiling a comprehensive list of all the tennis courts to be found in Europe is inconceivable.
The list for royal tennis courts in the Germanic States (Germany, Austria and Bohemia) was the first to be completed, followed by Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark. The database for Italy is near completion, after which the major projects for France and Great Britain will be undertaken. Finally a survey of tennis courts in Spain and a compilation for The Rest of Europe will be addressed.
The Royal Tennis Court of Hampton Court Palace, originally built for King Henry VIII, is arguably the world's oldest indoor sporting facility still in use.