Saturday, January 10

The History of Croquet

Croquet has been traced back to the 1300's. It is thought that it may have been an in-door version of lawn-bowling to be played in times of inclement weather. It was then played in more confined spaces. The players enjoyed it enough to bring it back outside for the summer. Originating in France, the game was called "paille-maille" which means ball-mallet.

During this period in history the French and Scottish were fierce allies, as a result there were certain cultural norms that crossed the channel. One of these was the game of paille-maille. Golfers took it up with the notion that its likeness to golf made it good practice for the great game.

In 1604 the crowns of Scotland and England were united under James VI of Scotland, soon to be known as James I of England. When he moved into the palace in London, he brought with him a paille-maille set as well as a set of golf clubs.

James' grandson Charles II enjoyed the game mightily and played it often in St. James Park. A nearby road was named for the game, "Pall Mall". This boulevard was much frequented by strollers and soon any road conducive to pleasant walks in the city became known as a mall. Modern retailers adopted the name and now call any conglomeration of stores with a covered walkway a mall.

Meanwhile back in France a doctor changed the rules of paille-maille slightly and recommended it for his patients. He called the new game, "Croquet" after the crooked stick used to hit the balls through the wickets. It then migrated to Ireland where it was called "Crooky". From there it came back to England where it supplanted "pall-mall".

Croquet became popular throughout the British Empire. It gained such tremendous popularity that an association was formed at Wimbledon and formal rules were laid down in 1868. Many fields were dedicated to Croquet. But this popularity was to be short-lived. The game of tennis hit England in general and Wimbledon in particular. Most of the croquet fields were turned into tennis courts.

Even so, croquet has survived as a sport and is even gaining in popularity today as a rather high class sport on the level of badminton. On any given day in the summer, people can be found in their back yards or at the local park roqueting to their heart's content. There are associations throughout the English-speaking world where competition is fierce and standards high. This is a game or sport that will continue to be played for fun or sport by all age groups.

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