Sunday, 28 November 2010

Bustling over large balls

For at least seven hundred years efforts have been made to stop people playing football. Sadly, this noble cause has never had much success.

In 1314 the Mayor of London issued the following proclamation on behalf of King Edward II:
For as much as there is great noise in the city caused by bustling over large balls...from which many evils might arise which God forbid: We command and forbid on behalf of the king, on pain of imprisonment, such game to be used in the city in future.

In 1349, Edward III sent a letter of complaint to the sheriffs of London declaring that "the skill of shooting with arrows was almost totally laid aside for the purpose of useless and unlawful games such as football."  The danger attending the pastime occasioned King James I of England, in the rules drawn up by himself for the recreations of his son Henry Prince of Wales, to give the following instructions:
From this court I debarre all rough and violent exercises, as the foote-ball. meeter for laming than making able the users thereof; but the exercises I would have you to use, although but moderately, not making a craft of them, are running, leaping, wrestling, fencing, dancing, and playing at the caitch, or tennise, archerie, palle-malle and suchlike other fair and pleasant field-games.

Richard II in 1389 and Henry IV in 1401 tried again to little avail.

In 1424, under James I of Scotland, an Act of Parliament was passed outlawing the game:
It is statute, and the king forbiddis. that na man play at the fute-ball under the paine of fiftie schillings, to be raised to the lord of the land als oft as he be tainted. or to the scheriffe of the lands or his ministers if the lords will not punish sik trespassours.

(On the other hand, in 1526 Henry VIII ordered a pair of football boots of leather, handstitched by the Royal Cordwainer; they cost four shillings. But perhaps he was more serious about footwear than football: at the same time he ordererd seventy-seven other pairs of boots, buskins, shoes and slippers.)

It is regrettable that our later sovereigns did not attempt to continue this salutary if fruitless campaign, and it seems unlikely that the Windsors will ever renew it.

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