Tennis at Trent

Tennis at Trent

One of the frequent weekend visitors at Trent Park during the 1920s was King Charles III’s grandfather, King George VI (then known as Prince Albert, Duke of York, before his older brother’s abdication in 1936). As a guest of Sir Philip Sassoon and a keen sportsman, the Duke of York was keen to participate in activities laid on by his host and one of those was tennis.

In the Sassoon archive presently held at Houghton Hall in Norfolk, there is a charming thank you note from Albert thanking Philip for an afternoon of doubles tennis at Trent Park on the 6th July 1924. The Duke says in the note ‘it is seldom I get the chance of really good tennis nowadays’ combined with a humble apology of being ‘very much weaker than our opponents’. Who were their doubles opposition? The note explains one of the players was none other than Jean Borotra (the other player may have been René Lacoste) superstars of their day. Borotra was the iconic Frenchman who just happened to have won the Gentlemen’s Singles Championship at Wimbledon the day before! In fact Borotra had just made history being the first player to win at Wimbledon from outside the English-speaking world.

Later in WWII Borotra gained wider fame for escaping a Nazi SS run prison camp for high ranking and famous French citizens, located at the castle Ittler in Austria, to contact the liberating Americans in May 1945. However, 100 years ago, in the summer of 1924, he was at the top in the world of tennis playing a friendly against a future king in the idyllic grounds of Trent Park.

No wonder the Duke of York reflecting on his memorable day at Trent Park playing tennis against the best in the world concluded in his note to Philip Sassoon with the statement ‘I did enjoy it immensely’.