Polo has always been one of the Royal Family’s favourite equestrian pastimes. The game originally became a favourite of British Army Officers stationed in India, which was where Earl Mountbatten of Burma was first introduced to the sport during the 1920s. He subsequently went on to write the definitive guide to the game, ‘An Introduction to Polo by Marco’.
In view of his uncle’s enthusiasm and expertise, it is probably not surprising that the Duke of Edinburgh went on to take up the game. The Prince showed considerable talent and was soon winning tournaments with his own team, named Windsor Park, which he set up in the 1950s. The Queen was always a keen and interested spectator, watching her husband play as often as her schedule allowed.
During the first part of that decade, Prince Philip came to the conclusion that a new polo club was needed and it was due to his efforts that The Household Brigade Polo Club was established at Smith’s Lawn in Windsor Great Park. The club, as its name indicates, was initially intended primarily for members of the army, although over the years, the membership gradually widened to include many players with no military connections. At the end of the 1960s, the club changed its name to The Guards Polo Club, the name by which it continues to be known today.
Prince Philip gave up playing at the start of the 1970s, but by then he had passed his enthusiasm to his eldest son. Like his father, Prince Charles was to go on to become a competent player. Whilst he too has now retired from the game, his sons Prince William and Prince Harry have now both taken up the game, although military commitments mean that much of their play is restricted to charity fund-raising tournaments both in the UK and abroad.
In 1960, the Queen presented a trophy to the club which was known, for obvious reasons, as ‘The Queen’s Cup’. It remains the most important trophy at Guards Polo Club and is regularly contested each year by well over a dozen teams, arranged into leagues. The tournament is ‘High Goal’, which means that it is the very highest level of polo, with many of the world’s best players taking part.
The first matches of the 2013 tournament began on 22 May this year, with 16 teams taking part, divided into 4 leagues. Initially, league matches are played most days, either at Guards Polo Club or at nearby polo grounds..
At the weekend, the defending champions Dubai, and Zacara both secured places in the quarter-finals, which are to take place on the 8and 9 June. The line-up for the remaining quarter-final places will be decided at matches this week.
The 4 top-placed teams will then head to the semi-finals on Wednesday 12 June 2013, by which time they will have faced 3 weeks of hard competition. The tournament finishes four days later, with the Final taking place at Guards Polo Club on Sunday 16 June 2013, in the presence of the Queen. After watching the match from the Royal Box, Her Majesty customarily presents the Queen’s Cup to the winning captain, as well as prizes to the members of both teams.
The timing of the Queen’s Cup tournament comes at a very busy time of year for the Queen, as the Final always falls on the Sunday between the Birthday Parade on the Saturday, and the historic Garter Day Procession and Service on the Monday. Royal Ascot Week then begins on the following day! This year, the Coronation celebrations have also impacted on the Queen’s heavy schedule in the days leading up to the Final.