Royal Game of Croquet On Pall Mall St James’s in the 1660’s
There is no game more Royal than croquet. It was brought to England by King Charles II in 1660 upon his restoration to the throne. Back then it was only played during the autumn and winter months and usually in St James’s Park or Pall Mall. Frequently for extra larks they would have footman pour water over Pall Mall and would play the game on the ice. Whether it was played on ice or on the lawn of Pall Mall it was most definitely only played in the winter months because the heat of the summer would have made the wearing of the exotic textiles of their costumes impractical. Besides the heat the spring and summer well considered and help the London was considered and healthy and indeed plague was a regular feature of the summer months European cities .
Of all the royal sports croquet was most associated with royalty. At the time it was called Paille Maille and many believe this is from the Latin for ball and mallet though it is from the French melee and indeed the game then did have an air of chaos to it.
Imagine the sight on Pall Mall – named for the game – in 1660, for along with the players on the croquet field were the beloved Stuart spaniels and the kings ducks who followed him everywhere through his peregrinations around Whitehall Saint James’s Palace and Mayfair. The pets were accompanied by minders and royals and servants courtiers and courtesans all attired in a varied assortment of magnificent wigs and extraordinary costumes. For in the Restoration Court extravagance in all things was a form of allegiance in itself. Clothing really did maketh the man and the woman. For after Cromwell’s Puritan Commonwealth in which fine clothing, fine-food, fine-wine and fun generally had been banned.
To close ones eyes and imagine the Royal Stuart Court; the women the men and the courtiers in a richly coloured variety of exotic textiles wigs jewellery and costumes.
The sight of these luxurious velvets lace and silk’s swirling around the field of Powell Mall under the platinum skies of London would have provided a spectacular sight. The locals of Saint Jameses and mayfair would have all trotted out to observe the Royals and their court courtesans at play. Indeed tailors, jewellers, shoemakers, hatmakers, lace makers and wig-makers would also be among the crowds observing hoping their wares may be noticed as the wandered by either wearing their wares or with model displaying them in the hope of capturing a member of the Royal Courts attention and earning the coveted seal of “by royal appointed to His Majesty”
For croquet sets head to Jaques.