Every year from May to September, we see more regular sightings of The Duke of Cambridge and his brother, Prince Harry as polo season is in full swing. Annually, the Princes take part in five to seven matches, each one promoting and supporting their different charities.
William and Harry, both dab hands at the sport, began doing this eight years ago. They have raised a staggering amount of £3.7m so far. Last year alone, their participation in six matches resulted in raising £738,585, which was donated to eighteen various charities. These charities included Centrepoint, Tusk Trust & England and Wales Mountain Rescue.
One of the most highly publicised polo events has to be Prince Harry’s participation in the Sentebale Gold Cup. This match benefits his charity – Sentebale – which helps vulnerable children suffering from HIV in Lesotho.
The charity’s Chief Executive, Cathy Ferrier, said last year: “This event is extremely important to the charity, and allows us to continue to help and support some of the most vulnerable children in the world, through our work in Lesotho“. It also attracts some famous faces, leading to Ignacio Figueras, a world-renowned Argentinian polo player, becoming an ambassador for Sentebale in 2013. He has since played in matches alongside Prince Harry all over the world.
But William and Harry are not the first Princes to participate in what’s aptly known as the “Sport of Kings“. King George V kicked off the tradition in 1868 when he became one of the first members of the Malta Polo Club.
The Duke of Windsor was also a talented equestrian, playing several matches throughout the duration of his tour of India in 1921/1922. His interest sparked his good friend, the future Lord Louis Mountbatten, to take up the game, which in turn led to his nephew, Prince Philip becoming a keen player.
The Duke of Edinburgh began taking the game seriously in Malta in 1949, playing it regularly until his retirement in 1970. He encouraged his son Charles to play, and he received his first polo pony, ‘San Quinina‘, at the tender age of 15. The Prince took part in his first match the same year, captained by his father. He went on to take part on a regular basis, playing the sport vigorously until his retirement in 2005, leaving his two sons to continue the tradition.
However, the sport has its flawless pedigree. It boasts over two thousand years of history, originating in Persia in 600 BC. It was used to represent military battles to training the King’s cavalry. It established itself as an elite sport, being played by Sultans, Kings and Emperors alike.
Polo made its first British connection in 1859 when tea planters in India formed the European polo club. Informal matches were held between the British military stationed there, which led to the sport reaching the British soil.
In 1875, some matches drew crowds of 10,000 people. As popularity grew, it was taken up by both nobility and royalty, and also started being played at some universities. At the Paris Olympics in 1900, the sport made it to the official programme. It was played in four other Olympiads, but it was finally removed in the 1936 Berlin Games.
The sport is still hugely popular all over the world, being professionally played in a vast number of countries, including India, Australia and, of course, Great Britain.
On Sunday, Princes William and Harry took part in the annual Audi Polo Challenge at Coworth Park. The brothers enjoyed some healthy sibling rivalry as they paraded their horsemanship.
The Princes wore white kits, but a splash of colour was added when Prince William received a pair of bright pink wellingtons from the director of Audi UK for his month-old daughter, Princess Charlotte. The father-of-two commented: “I think George would prefer those!”.
The royal duo were joined by a host of well-known faces, such as Samuel L. Jackson and Chris Hemsworth, who they were spotted chatting to after the game. The royals were playing in aid of Centrepoint, WellChild and Child Bereavement UK.
Photo credit:By Billpolo (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) via Wikimedia Commons