Wimbledon and the Queen: A Royal Tennis History
There are lots of things that make Wimbledon special, from its iconic strawberries and cream and Pimm’s to the famous Wimbledon Queue, Wimbledon’s unique and charming characteristics set it apart from the world’s other major tennis events.
If there’s one thing that truly sets Wimbledon apart from the crowd, however, it’s the tournament’s extensive history with the Royal Family. Dating back more than 100 years, Wimbledon has long been associated with the royals.
From the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh’s sporadic appearances at Wimbledon over the past half-century to the involvement of other royals in the tournament, let’s take a look back at the history of Wimbledon and the Royal Family.
Members of the Royal Family have been attending since 1907
On the 24th of June 1907, the 31st Wimbledon Championships started. The event was an iconic one, featuring a tarpaulin cover over the Centre Court for the first time in Wimbledon history and starting the year’s Grand Slam tennis schedule.
It was also the first Wimbledon Championships to feature the Royal Family. Prince George and Princess Mary of Wales (later King George V and Queen Mary) watched the tournament, starting a long association of Wimbledon with the Royal Family.
The tournament itself was an exciting one. 1906 men’s singles champion Laurence Doherty didn’t return to defend his title – it was won by Norman Brookes. Women’s singles champion May Sutton – just 21 at the time – regained her champion title.
In 1926, Prince Albert (later King George VI) played at Wimbledon
Not content with simply watching The Championships, the Royal Family has even competed at Wimbledon. In 1926, Prince Albert (who in December 1936, after the abdication of Edward VIII, became King George VI) took part in the men’s doubles.
The Duke of York’s tennis partner was Sir Louis Greig, whom Prince Albert had met during officer training at the Royal Naval College. Although Greig had won a Royal Air Force tennis tournament, the pair didn’t last long at Wimbledon.
After losing three straight sets 6-1, 6-3 and 6-2, the pair graciously accepted defeat and enjoyed the rest of the tournament. Prince Albert’s involvement is still, to this day, the only time a member of the Royal Family has competed at Wimbledon.
The Queen visits Wimbledon infrequently, especially in recent decades
Despite the Royal Box being a famous aspect of Wimbledon, the Queen herself isn’t an enthusiastic tennis fan. Since 1957 – the first year she watched Wimbledon – she has only attended the tournament three other times.
Her most recent appearance at The Championships was in 2010 – her first visit in over 30 years. The last time the Queen had attended Wimbledon was in 1977 – an exciting year in which Virginia Wade won the women’s singles title for Britain.
Although the Queen may only visit Wimbledon occasionally, the Duke of Edinburgh was a keen spectator earlier in his life. From 1949 to 1977, he attended Wimbledon six times, attending with the Queen for Britain’s only women’s singles win in 1977.
Likewise, Prince Charles is lukewarm on the tennis. Although he rarely visits, his wife – the Duchess of Cornwall – is frequently spotted in the Royal Box during The Championships and often meets with players, stewards and ball boys and girls.
The Royal Box is an icon of Wimbledon, but the royals don’t always use it
William and Kate have reignited the Royal Family’s association with Wimbledon, having visited the tournament together and inviting celebrity friends along with them for several matches.
Most of the time, William and Kate sit in the Royal Box to watch the tennis, which has 74 seats and offers an excellent view of the court. However, during the 2012 London Olympics, they decided to shun the Royal Box for regular seats.
The Royal Box itself is rarely empty during Wimbledon, having hosted the Royal Family and its guests since 1922. As well as the Royal Family, the box is open to heads of government, star tennis players and invitees of the All England Club.
In addition to getting one of the best views of the Centre Court on offer, guests seated in the Royal Box are invited to enjoy lunch and drinks in the Clubhouse, offering an unforgettable Wimbledon experience.
Will we spot the Queen at Wimbledon 2015?
After the Queen’s return to Wimbledon after 33 years of absence in 2010, many tennis commentators speculated that her appearance in the Royal Box could turn into an annual tradition.
Although the Queen hasn’t attended Wimbledon since 2010, there’s a chance she could visit in 2015. Given that her presence seems to bring good luck with it – in 2010, she watched Andy Murray win in straight sets – let’s hope she’s present.
Would you like to attend Wimbledon 2015? Although seats in the Royal Box aren’t available to the public, buying Wimbledon debenture tickets offers you a great view of the action, whether on Court No. 1 or the Centre Court itself.