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William Bromley (1769-1842)

J. E. Barre, Representing him engaged in the Grand Match played in the Tennis Court - Lords Cricket Ground July 3rd 1849
London: J. H. Dark, [1849]
Mezzotint engraving
Paper size: 27 1/2” x 20 1/4”
Frame size: 39” x 31 3/4”
The Frenchman, J. Edmond Barre is considered to be the greatest nineteenth-century player of the game of "court tennis."  The son of a tennis professional in Grenoble and Paris, he first came to notice as a tennis player in the late 1820's, when the restored French royal court revived the game.  Barre was so talented, that he was the World Champion from 1829 to 1862 when he finally succumbed, at the age of 60, to the 36 year old Englishman Edmund Tomkins. The present engraving shows him playing at the court at Lord's Cricket Ground in 1849 at which time he remained undefeated.  In 1855, Barre famously re-opened the Versailles court after he bacame royal paumier (tennis professional) to the Emperor Napoleon III.  It was here that the renowned Tiers Etat met on June 20, 1789, and took the celebrated "Oath of the tennis-court," essentially starting the French Revolution. His career was only ended by the Franco Prussian War and the Siege of Paris, leaving him to die impoverished.
To distinguish it from its relatively recent sister sport of lawn tennis, the original game of tennis is called "real tennis" in the United Kingdom, "royal tennis" in Australia, "jeu de paume" in France, and here in the United States "court tennis." By any of these names, it is the game of Napoleon, of Henry VIII and many of Europe's monarchs and aristocracy. Court tennis is one of the oldest of ball-games, and one of the most difficult to learn. It is now played in a walled and roofed court.
One of the first mentions of a game resembling court tennis appears in Homer's Odyssey. Nausicaa, princess of Phaeacia (Odyss. vi. 115), is represented by him as throwing a ball to her maids of honor. Certainly, ball-games were played by the Greeks and Romans and in these may be seen the rudiments of modern tennis.  Court tennis was most fully developed in France and found particular favor with the monarchy and aristocracy.  Louis X is said to have died from a chill contracted after playing; Charles V was devoted to the game, though he vainly tried to stop it as a pastime for the lower classes, and Charles VI watched the game from the room where he was confined during his attack of insanity. Henri II is described as the best player in France, and worthy of the silver ball given to the finest players. Later, Henri IV and Louis XIV (who kept a regular staff to look after his court) were patrons and players of court tennis.
In Britain the game, or some form of it, was known by the fourteenth century and certainly played by Edward III.  Henry VII frequently played at a court built at Windsor Castle and his son, Henry VIII, built the tennis court at Hampton Court Palace which still exists today. After 1615 further courts were built in London, Oxford and Cambridge. Today, approximately forty-nine court tennis courts exist worldwide.

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