Playing Tennis Indoors

Photo by Library of Congress/ Corbis/ VCG via Getty Images

Generations of French monarches enjoyed tennis. Tennis did not desired them back.

What did Louis X( 1289 -1 316 ), Charles VIII( 1470 -1 498) and Francis III, Duke of Brittany( 1518 -1 536) all have in common? Well, yes, they’re all French royalty who died quite young. Well done. But what else did they have in common? You’ve probably guessed from the headline that the answer is “tennis-related deaths”.

This may strike you as bizarre. Two Capetian rulers and an heir seeming dying of tennis-ish misadventure in 220 years is a remarkable co-occurrence. Medieval tennis wasn’t particularly brutal — in essence’ courte-paume’ was a more complicated version of modern tennis with much heavier material — so it’s not as though we’d expect it to lead to many fatalities. Dysentery? Sure. The Black Death? Why not. Jousting? Yep, unquestionably. But tennis? Not so much, right?

And hitherto …

Louis X

A painting of King Louis X

Louis X had a closer relationship with tennis than any other French king. Before courte-paume was courte, it was plain aged’ jeu de paume, ’ played outdoors with entrusts, mitts, then finally racquets. What this has to do with apple liquor is unclear to me.

Anyway, then-Crown Prince Louis loved jeu de paume. He loved it so much, in fact, that he wanted to play it even in bad weather, which at some detail in the 1290 s led to him initiate the first indoor tennis courtrooms in history. Hurray!

Louis ascended to the throne after the death of his father in 1314, which was quickly followed by the death of his wife, who had been convicted of adultery and strangled to death in prison. That’s not a great look, peculiarly when combined with the execution of his own Grand Chamberlain on costs of sorcery.

( We are beginning to see why Louis X was sometimes known as’ the Quarrelsome.’)

In fairness to Louis, France was a bit of a mess back then. He had acquired a country full of bickering interests that needed to be placated, and Louis did his best to placate them. He also ended slavery and abolished the expulsion of the Jews his father had told in 1306, but lest you think that he was some sort of progressive, he did these things mostly-slash-entirely to raise money.

The point of the little digression into politics was to suggest that maybe there were some Powers afoot who didn’t much like the King, so there’s reason to suspect poisoning in his 1316 fatality. Said death came after a particularly intense game of courte-paume. Thirsty, he imbibed significant quantities of cold wine-colored, took ill and died a few days later.


Charles VIII A painting of King Charles VIII

Charles was less into tennis than Louis X, but just as quarrelsome, at least in the realm of international politics. In 1494, he made the disastrous decision to invade Italy. Even more disastrously, the invasion was a success. This scared the crap out of every interested power, who united to impel the French back out a year later, conducting them to mostly run away with a long list of casualties and no booty.

( This is the sort of escapade that fucks up your country’s finances for a long while and makes a lot of beings terribly cross with you. If there’s anything to take away from this affix apart from’ check out this weird tennis cus, ’ it’s that I’d advise not invading Italy without believing moderately hard about it firstly .)

Three years later Charles was dead. Here’s how his contemporary, Philip de Commines claims it happened 😛 TAGEND

The king … took his king( Anne of Bretagne) by the paw, and headed her out of her chamber to a situate where she had never been before, to seem them play at tennis in the castle-ditch. They registered together into … the nastiest situate about the castle, broken down at the entering, everyone is devoted a nuisance in it that would. The tycoon was not a tall man, more he knocked his head as he went in. He spent some time in looking upon the players, and talked freely with everybody … The last-place expres he exploited whilst he was in health was, that he hoped never to commit a mortal sin again , nor a venial sin if he could help it; and to those used words in his cavity he fell down downwards, and lost his speech.

The king retrieved consciousness formerly, but the retrieval was a mirage. He died nine hours after he fell.

Charles was superseded by Louis XII, who, uh, annexed his cousin’s queen in addition to his throne. Louis, incidentally has a tennis narration of his own. Louis, a exquisite player, ran into trouble when he quarrelled a refereeing decision made by Princess Anne, the eldest daughter of King Louis XI( Charles VIII’s leader ). Kenelm Henry Digby relates 😛 TAGEND

Louis XII, when Duke of Orleans, playing games tennis, Anne de Beaujeu decided a disputed point against him, which so infuriated him, that he said “qu’elle en avoit menti[ she lies ]. ” “Ha! mon cousin, ” said the princess to Rene Duke of Lorraine, “do you suffer me to be thus reviled? ” Rene fixed no response, but leaved the Duke of Orleans a punch. The other sovereigns separated and conciliated them.

The other princes allayed the combatants so well that a lifelong enmity sprang up between the two. In fact, the Duke of Orleans briefly took up appendages against the kingdom, which was then controlled by a regent: tennis umpire and Princess Anne de Beaujeu. GG.

Francis III, Duke of Brittany

A painting of the Dauphin, Francis III, Duke of Brittany

Francis was King Francis I’s eldest son, and heir to the French throne. This was not actually great news for him, because his pa was having A Bad Meter. Francis I was made hostage by Hapsburg pushes in 1525, and forced to sign the Treaty of Madrid. To ensure his good behavior, two of his sons were handed over in his place. Francis was committed as part of them.

But apparently the monarch didn’t much care for his children, because he immediately went back on his message, leaving both the eight-year-old Dauphin and his younger brother Henry in Spanish custody for three years. Captivity made a fee on Francis in particular, whose state suffered poorly during his times in disagreeable custody, and never fully recovered.

A few years later , now a free guy, Francis opted for a tireless play of tennis. During said game — and stop me if you’ve heard this before — he had a cold, refreshing alcohol, and died shortly thereafter. Was his organisation terminally damaged from his time in Spain? Was he poisoned by Sebastiano de Montecucculi, his secretary( and Imperial agent )? Was Catherine de Medici involved? Your guess is as good as anyone else’s. What is clearly true-life is that the tennis curse got another one.

Today, French royalty need not fear the noble athletic of tennis. This is mostly because French royalty no longer actually exists, terminally damaged by French revolutionary fervor in 1789 and then finally eradicated by the messy tremors of the 19 th century.

One of the key early events of the French rebellion came on June 20 th, 1789, when members of the Third Estate, panicking onslaught from King Louis XVI made a collective promise “never to separate, and to reassemble wherever events expect until the constitution of the realm is established and fixed upon solid foundations.”

The name of this pivotal moment, which marked the first time that the executive powers of the emperor were properly challenged by the people, was, of course, the Tennis Court Oath.

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