Tudor Games Sports and Pastimes
The sports and games that were enjoyed during the Tudor period were generally a reflection of the pastimes that were enjoyed by the monarch. Henry VIII was very athletic in his youth and was a keen hunter, while Elizabeth his daughter enjoyed bear baiting. Sport however, was not something that the general population had access to. In fact Henry VIII passed a law in 1512 that prohibited the common man from taking part in sporting activities such as real tennis, skittles, bowls or card and dice games. It was thought that the common man should save all of his energy for his work. The only exception to this rule was on religious holidays.
What were the popular Tudor Sports?
Football was a popular game, though few would recognise it as the game which is played in England today. There were no set rules as to how many people could be on the field at the same time, and there was around a mile in distance between the opposite goal posts. Players were also allowed to handle the ball as well as kick it. It was a very rough game with many injuries caused as a result.
As the majority of men who played the game were young and athletic, Henry VIII ruled that the game be banned in 1540 in order that these men be fit to serve in the army should the need arise. It was thought by the noble classes that the common man would easily get carried away in any game he partook in which would mean trouble within the community. It was thought that there time would be best served at work or at home.
The nobility of course could partake in whatever they considered to be a sporting pursuit at the time. Jousting was very popular, as was the hunting of deer, though the poor were only able to hunt for rabbit or hares. Many of the sports that were popular during the Tudor period are now banned, such as cock fighting and bear baiting.
What were the favourite Tudor Pastimes?
During the reign of Elizabeth the theatre gained great popularity. The famous Globe theatre in London was designed to mimic the appearance of a bear pit, ensuring that everyone that attended could see what was going on the stage. When the English weather proved too poor for outdoor pursuits such as hunting, activities were carried on indoors with games involving cards and dice. Board games were also popular, especially a game known as 'Tables', what we call backgammon today.
It was such a common game that a board was found amongst the wreckage of the Mary Rose. Not all games involved an actual board though as it was more common, especially amongst the poor to mark out a playing surface on the ground. Skittles were popular as was an old form of billiards, Mary Queen of Scots herself had a billiards table and is recorded as having complained that it had been taken away from her during her imprisonment.