"Tennis balls, my liege": The French Dauphin’s sneer and Henry
Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616.
Mr. William Shakespeare's comedies, histories, and tragedies. Published
according to the true original copies. The Second Impression.
London: Printed by Tho. Cotes, for Robert Allot, and are to be sold at his shop
at the signe of the Blacke Beare in Pauls Church-yard, 1632.
Bookplate of Sir
William Nigel Gresley. Later calf.
During the Hundred Years War between the English and the French, in which the
English kings claimed sovereignty over much of northern and western France, the
French crown prince sent the English king a gift of tennis balls, mocking his
youth. Henry V ’s response uses several specialized tennis terms (set,
hazard, court, chase), indicating the developed state of the game, if not in
Henry V’s time, certainly in Shakespeare’s. Henry made good his threat at the
Battle of Agincourt in 1415, but a hundred years later, in 1522, King Henry VIII
utilized tennis in international diplomacy, partnering the Emperor Charles V
against the Prince of Orange and the Marquis of Brandenburg in eleven games
during the Emperor’s state visit to London.
King James VI & I advises his son to play "the caitch or tennise"
James I, King of England [and VI of Scotland], 1566-1625.
"Basilicon Doron, or His Majesties Instructions to His Dearest Sonne, Henry the
Prince," in The workes of the most high and mightie
prince, Iames, by the grace of God, king of Great Britaine, France and Ireland,
defender of the faith, &c.
London, Printed by Robert Barker and Iohn Bill, printers to the Kings Most
Excellent Maiestie. Anno 1616-20. First edition, second issue. Later calf.
James wrote this book of advice on the proper education for Renaissance prince
in 1598, when his eldest son Prince Henry was only four, including tennis among
the "exercises of the bodie most commendable," "such honest games and pastimes,
as may further abilitie and maintaine health."
King Charles II plays tennis, and loses weight
Pepys, Samuel, 1633-1703.
Memoirs of Samuel Pepys . . . : comprising his diary from 1659 to 1669,
deciphered by the Rev. John Smith . . . from the original short- hand ms. in the
Pepysian Library; and a selection from his private correspondence edited by
Richard, Lord Braybrooke.
2 vols. London: Henry Colburn, 1825. First edition. Contemporary sprinkled
While court tennis was frowned on by the Puritans, the restoration of the Stuart
monarchy in 1660 led to its revival. The diarist Samuel Pepys (who recorded his
comments in shorthand code, first deciphered for this edition) was a sharp
observer of royal vanity. In 1664, he noted that "to see how the King’s play
was extolled, without any cause at all, was a very loathsome sight, though
sometimes, indeed, he did play very well," and here in 1667, he noted how the
King weighed himself before and after each game.