Thursday, January 5, 2012

Pastyme With Good Companye: Games

Playing cards was one of the most popular pastymes at the Tudor Royal Court. One such

"The Cardsharps"
card game was "Pope July" (aka Pope Joan). The game grew in popularity during Henry VIII's nullity suit against Katherine of Aragon. The game involves a staking board, divided into eigh compartments (Ace, King, Queen, Jack, Game, Pope - the Nine of Diamonds, Matrimony - the King or Queen of Trumps, and Intrigue - the Queen or Jack of Trumps). Before dealing, the 8 of Diamonds is removed from the Deck to form a "stop" sequence. The cards are then dealt. The first player lays down their lowest card, then as many as they can in order to form an unbroken sequence of their cards (with Ace being the lowest in the sequence and the King being the highest). Once their sequence is finished, their turn is over. The next player repeats the step. The first player to run out of cards wins. For more detailed instructions, see this website on historic card games.

Bowls was another game often played in the warmer months at the Royal Court. It is a lawn game, played on a flat open grassy area. Nine balls are used (four for each opponent, and one which is the target). The target ball (or "jack") is rolled to the opposite end of the field. Each opponent, in turn, rolls their ball in the hopes of landing closest to it. The winner is determined by who has the most balls closest to the "jack." This game, developed in the 13th Century, is still very popular in the UK, USA, and Australia today.

Apparently Anne Boleyn was not very good at the game. After attempting to play and losing, Henry VIII paid her gamble of 12 GBP (about 3,600 GBP) for her.

Henry VIII, much like many of the young men of his court, enjoyed "Real Tennis." Henry VIII had several courts built at his palaces (including one at Hampton Court in 1530), as did

Francois I. Though Henry V was one of the first monarchs to play the game, Henry VIII made it famously known as "the sport of Kings." Legend has it that Anne Boleyn was watching a game of Real Tennis when she was arrested for treason.

In play, it is very similar to lawn tennis (or modern tennis). The ball is served, much like in tennis, and points are calculated similarly. However, balls can be bounced off the walls of the court. Points can even be gained by hitting the ball through a window! 

Board Games were also played at the Tudor Court, some of which, like chess and backgammon, are still played today. One game, called Checkers or "Queck" was also play. It, however, is not related to modern Checkers. Gambling was a very popular pastyme at the Tudor court, and was often incorporated into other games, to make the more interesting, one presumes. Henry VIII had a special allowance for his gambling, as did each of his wives. Anne Boleyn was apparently a brash gambler. Henry VIII would only give her a "small" amount of money at a time to gamble with (about 5 GBP - 1,500 GBP in today's money).

When not at tournaments, masques, or hunting, it seems that the Tudors had plenty of games to keep them entertained. I suppose in a time before tv, they had to be inventive! I find it fascinating that many of the games that were played back then, are still enjoyed today, despite all of our media distractions! Are there any games enjoyed by the Tudors that you play? Pin It


  1. This is a very nce page and very helpful, although it doesn't tell you how to play the card games wich would be even more helpful!

  2. Be sure to check out this site: It has some great old games with all the rules!