Earl of Wessex plays King’s sport of real tennis on trip to Bristol

The Earl of Wessex was in Bristol today to carry out a series of engagements, most of which were linked to his ever-increasing participation in his father’s Duke of Edinburgh scheme, but also the unusual sport of real tennis, which the Earl himself enjoys.

Prince Edward visited the Bristol Real Tennis Club, which is based at Clifton College Playing Fields. Real tennis is an older style of the modern game played on an enclosed court; it is the ancestor of modern lawn tennis, played with smaller, wooden rackets and a smaller solid ball. Play is continuous – no sitting down for real tennis players! – and points are awarded for ‘hazards’ hit, with various ‘galleries’ or window-like openings below the roof acting as goals to be aimed for.

Real tennis was a favourite past-time of famous Tudor monarch Henry VIII, and a court still exists at Hampton Court.

Edward officially opened the club two decades ago; he is the Patron of the International Real Tennis Professionals Association.  He himself learnt to play the game as part of his DofE Gold Award.

This year, the Earl is undertaking a ‘Real Tennis Tour’ in conjunction with his role within The Duke of Edinburgh International Award Foundation.  Throughout the year, Edward will promote the DofE International Award to a new generation of young people through DofE events, real tennis tournaments and fundraising.  As part of the tour, Prince Edward will aim to play on every Real Tennis court in the world – today was the second court, after he began his tour in Cambridge last month.

Today, he played three sets of tennis. It is also worth noting that he and wife Sophie met at a real tennis match!

During his trip to Bristol, The Earl of Wessex also visited Ashton Park School, where the royal guest spoke to young people about their involvement with the DofE scheme. Some of the students were given the opportunity to show Edward the skills which they have learnt throughout their award, including CPR and First Aid.

This evening, the Earl then attended a dinner at Bristol’s Merchants Hall which was held in celebration of The Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme. Prince Edward will continue in the city tomorrow.

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