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The French royal family suffered from a centuries-long tennis curse

Playing Tennis Indoors

Photo by Library of Congress/ Corbis/ VCG via Getty Images

Generations of French sovereigns desired tennis. Tennis did not cherished them back.

What did Louis X( 1289 -1 316 ), Charles VIII( 1470 -1 498) and Francis III, Duke of Brittany( 1518 -1 536) all have in common? Well, yes, they’re all French royalty who died quite young. Well done. But what else did they have in common? You’ve probably approximated from the headline that the answer is “tennis-related deaths”.

This may strike you as remarkable. Two Capetian sovereigns and an heir apparent dying of tennis-ish misadventure in 220 times is a remarkable coincidence. Medieval tennis wasn’t especially vicious — in essence’ courte-paume’ was a more complicated version of modern tennis with much heavier material — so it’s not as though we’d expect it has contributed to many fatalities. Dysentery? Sure. The Black Death? Why not. Jousting? Yep, emphatically. But tennis? Not so much better, right?

And yet …

Louis X

A painting of King Louis X

Louis X had a closer relationship with tennis than any other French king. Before courte-paume was courte, it was plain old-fashioned’ jeu de paume, ’ played outdoors with sides, mitts, then finally racquets. What this has to do with apple liquor is unclear to me.

Anyway, then-Crown Prince Louis loved jeu de paume. He loved it so much, in fact, that he wanted to play it even in bad weather, which at some part in the 1290 s contributed significantly to him appoint the first indoor tennis tribunals in history. Hurray!

Louis ascended to the throne after the death of his father in 1314, which was quickly followed by the death of his wife, who had been convicted of adultery and strangled to death in prison. That’s not a great look, peculiarly when combined with the execution of his own Grand Chamberlain on attacks of supernatural.

( We are beginning to see why Louis X was sometimes known as’ the Quarrelsome.’)

In fairness to Louis, France was a bit of a mess back then. He had inherited a number of countries full of bickering interests which is required to be placated, and Louis did his best to placate them. He too resolved slavery and abolished the expulsion of the Jews his father had dictated in 1306, but lest you think that he was some sort of progressive, he did these things mostly-slash-entirely to raise money.

The point of the little digression into politics was to suggest that maybe there were some Powers afoot who didn’t much like the King, so there’s reason to suspect poisoning in his 1316 demise. Said death came after a particularly intense game of courte-paume. Thirsty, he imbibed a large quantity of freezing wine-coloured, took affliction and died some days later.

Hmmmmmm.

Charles VIII A painting of King Charles VIII

Charles was less into tennis than Louis X, but just as quarrelsome, at least in the realm of international politics. In 1494, he made the disastrous decision to invade Italy. Even more disastrously, the intrusion was a success. This scared the crap out of every interested power, who united to coerce the French back out a year later, contributing them to basically run away with a long list of casualties and no booty.

( This is the sort of caper that fucks up your country’s finances for a long while and makes a lot of parties very pass with you. If there’s anything to take away from this affix apart from’ check out this weird tennis cus, ’ it’s that I’d caution not invading Italy without contemplating reasonably hard about it firstly .)

Three years later Charles was dead. Here’s how his contemporary, Philip de Commines claims it happened 😛 TAGEND

The king … took his monarch( Anne of Bretagne) by the pas, and conducted her out of her cavity to a situate where she had never been before, to seem them play at tennis in the castle-ditch. They opened together into … the nastiest place about the castling, broken down at the admission, and everybody perpetrated a nuisance in it that they are able to. The emperor was not a tall man, hitherto he thumped his head as he went in. He devoted some time in looking upon the players, and talked freely with everybody … The last showing he consumed whilst he was in health was, that he hoped never to commit a mortal sin again , nor a venial sin if he could help it; and with those paroles in his lip he fell down backwards, and lost his speech.

The king recaptured consciousness formerly, but the improvement was a mirage. He died nine hours after he fell.

Charles was attained by Louis XII, who, uh, annexed his cousin’s queen in addition to his throne. Louis, incidentally has a tennis legend of his own. Louis, a masterful participate, ran into trouble when he disagreed a refereeing decision made by Princess Anne, the eldest daughter of King Louis XI( Charles VIII’s leader ). Kenelm Henry Digby associates 😛 TAGEND

Louis XII, when Duke of Orleans, playing games tennis, Anne de Beaujeu decided a disputed point against him, which so infuriated him, that he said “qu’elle en avoit menti[ she lies ]. ” “Ha! mon cousin, ” said the princess to Rene Duke of Lorraine, “do you sustain me to be thus insulted? ” Rene drew no reply, but dedicated the Duke of Orleans a gale. The other princes separated and conciliated them.

The other rulers appeased the combatants so well that a lifelong enmity sprang up between the two. In fact, the Duke of Orleans briefly made up forearms against the monarchy, which was then controlled by a regent: tennis umpire and Princess Anne de Beaujeu. GG.

Francis III, Duke of Brittany

A painting of the Dauphin, Francis III, Duke of Brittany

Francis was King Francis I’s eldest son, and heir to the French throne. This was not actually great news for him, because his pa was having A Bad Go. Francis I was taken hostage by Hapsburg personnels in 1525, and forced to sign the Treaty of Madrid. To ensure his good behavior, two of his sons were handed over in his neighbourhood. Francis was one of them.

But apparently the tycoon didn’t much care for his children, because he immediately went back on his message, leaving both the eight-year-old Dauphin and his younger brother Henry in Spanish custody for three years. Captivity made a fee on Francis in particular, whose state lost naughtily during his times in disagreeable detention, and never fully recovered.

A few years later , now a free subject, Francis opted for a strenuous game of tennis. During said play — and stop me if you’ve heard this before — he had a cold, freshening liquor, and died shortly after. Was his constitution terminally injury from his time in Spain? Was he poisoned by Sebastiano de Montecucculi, his secretary( and Imperial agent )? Was Catherine de Medici involved? Your guess is as good as anyone else’s. What is certainly true-life is that the tennis curse got another one.

Today, French royalty need not fear the royal play of tennis. This is mostly because French royalty no longer actually exists, terminally damaged by French revolutionary fervor in 1789 and then finally eradicated by the messy tumults of the 19 th century.

One of the key early events of the French rebellion came on June 20 th, 1789, when members of the Third estate, fearing attack from King Louis XVI made a collective predict “never to separate, and to reassemble wherever circumstances necessary until the constitution of the realm is established and fixed upon solid foundations.”

The name of this pivotal moment, which marked the first time that the executive powers of the monarch were properly challenged by the people, was, of course, the Tennis Court Oath.

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