Croquet is one of the most easily recognizable lawn games around the world, and what makes it so endearing is the fact that the game can be played on a competitive level with steadfast rules and regulations, or at a recreational level with friends and family too, where the rules can be altered in order to suit the occasion.
There are several variations of the game that are played around the world and as mentioned, the rules of the game will depend on the situation, and can be altered by the organizers of the game (if it's a competitive tournament). All one needs is some open space, some basic croquet equipment, and a minimum of two people in order to enjoy the game at its best.
While there are no official records stating the exact origin of this game, there are many different sources that show that this game has been around for many centuries now. Of course, all of these versions do not talk about croquet in the same manner, but this is expected. Here are some prominent sources that point towards the origin of the game of croquet.
● The game is a supposed derivation of the game known as Paille-maille, or Pall Mall, which was played in France in the 16th and 17th centuries. Some also say that the game originated there as far back as the 14th century.
The game started off as a form of 'ground billiards' but soon evolved to something resembling modern-day croquet. Interestingly, the game of golf can also trace its origin back to this game.
● The game slowly spread to other parts of Europe, thanks in no small part to the allied nature of France and Scotland at the time. When Scotland and England united, the game became popular in England as well due to the crown prince's (James I of England) love for the game.
● Eventually, the game evolved in France to become known as croquet (since the word loosely means 'crooked stick'). This name soon passed to Ireland in the middle of the 19th century (and was known as Crooky), and then eventually back to England as well. In 1868, the All England Croquet Club was formed in Wimbledon, in order to unify the game and its rules.
● This club eventually became the All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club in 1877. The title 'Croquet' was then removed in 1882 because lawn tennis was becoming increasingly popular and commercial, but in 1899 the name was again changed to All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet club, and this name has stuck on since then.
This also happens to be the site for the Wimbledon Open, one of the most widely watched tennis tournaments in the world. Additionally, the All-England Croquet Association was formed in 1896, which became the Croquet Association (CA) in 1900.
● In the Victorian Era, croquet became very popular amongst English ladies, because it gave them an opportunity to get away from their chaperons and mingle with men during the game. This increased the popularity of the game, since many people would then hold and attend special croquet parties in order to teach the game to everyone.
● Simultaneously, the game was making headway in the United States of America as well. 1865 witnessed the birth of the Newport Croquet Club, and in 1882, several bodies combined and formed the National American Croquet Association. By 1900, croquet became an official sport in the Olympics.
● The 20th century saw croquet becoming popular all around the world, and today the game is played competitively in more than 20 countries. All of these countries have official croquet bodies which regularly hold tournaments and invite people for commercial reasons.
People of any age can play this game under any setting, and this is what has made the game popular. While the person to whom the origin of croquet can be attributed to is still unknown, it is widely believed that the game was definitely created by French peasants. So the next time you are watching or playing the game of croquet, you know who to thank.