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Why is the Royal Family Obsessed With Polo?

May 15, 2019 4 min read

Why is the Royal Family Obsessed With Polo?

Almost as if by law, at least law of blood, every male in the Windsor clan is an avid polo player. Prince George already has his own mallet, gifted by former President Barack Obama. At age five, he’s already being groomed to participate in his family’s favorite pastime.

This begs the question, why does every member of the royal family play polo?

Read on to learn about the connection between one of the world’s most famous families, and the Sport of Kings in this article from PoloWeekly.

All the men in the Windsor family play polo: Prince Harry, Prince William, Prince Charles, and even Prince Philip and King George VI have been polo players. No doubt, Prince George, Prince Louis, and Prince Archibald will follow in these footsteps.

Prince Charles and his sons at a polo tournament | Image Courtesy: Getty Images
Prince Charles and his sons at a polo tournament | Image Courtesy: Getty Images

But how is it that polo became the sport of choice for the Windsors?

In historical ambiguity, polo traces its roots either in Persia or Mongolia before recorded history. It would then reach the British Empire via India during the Commonwealth in the 19th century. The royal love affair with polo made the British Kingdom the most powerful and famous in the sport.

Prince Philip was really the one to make the sport popular after his station in Malta during World War II. His uncle, Earl Mountbatten of Burma, taught him how to play. Louis Mountbatten was so in love with polo that he even wrote the most famous book on the sport, “An Introduction to Polo” under the name Marco (a cheeky nod to the ancient vagabond).

By the end of the war, Prince Philip was set in his ways to bring the sport back to England where he formed the Windsor Park team and eventually Guards Polo Club (now one of the world’s most famous clubs). He continued playing until the age of 50, when arthritis took over and he had to retire from the game. But the love of sport never left his side and from there he took on competitive four-in-hand carriage driving which he continues to compete in today.

It was therefore Prince Philip that started the family tradition of playing polo by giving his son Prince Charles (Prince of Wales) a mallet at the age of fifteen. Prince Charles started competing four years later, becoming an avid poloist, and experienced many injuries throughout his career. He was once quoted as saying that it is his “one great extravagance,” to which he gave a huge part of his adult life. After numerous stitches, falls, concussions, etc., he was forced to retire to the sidelines in 2015 and watch his sons play instead.

But polo isn’t just enjoyed by the men of the House of Windsor.

All members of the royal family have since made polo a pastime. They’ve made appearances, played in tournaments, and enjoyed the spectacle from the sidelines. Queen Elizabeth has made regular appearances at polo matches throughout her reign. Images dating back to the mid 50’s show her in attendance in bold full skirts.

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip | Photo Courtesy: Tim Graham at Getty Images
Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip | Photo Courtesy: Tim Graham at Getty Images

Princess Diana would also appear at polo matches, often straying from royal norms, opting for white trousers rather than expected dresses.

Princess Diana and Prince Charles celebrating a victory | Image: Courtesy of Getty Images
Princess Diana and Prince Charles celebrating a victory | Image: Courtesy of Getty Images

But polo wasn’t just about fashion, it was also a time for family. Diana and her sons shared many famous moments watching Prince Charles play. And they even shared some intimate moments caught on camera.

Today, the tradition continues. Both William and Harry grew up watching their father play and now play polo themselves. Their young families are also regular spectators.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle repeat Prince Charles’ and Princess Diana’s kiss | Image: Courtesy of Getty Images
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle repeat Prince Charles’ and Princess Diana’s kiss | Image: Courtesy of Getty Images

In fact, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are friends with Nacho Figueras and his wife Delfina Blaquier. For those readers who don’t know, Nacho and Delfina are the Argentine polo-power couple. Nacho has co-hosted and played in several charity events with Harry.

Like many social sporting events, polo has become synonymous with charity fundraisers. In 2018, Prince Harry participated in the Sentebale Polo Cup. The event raised over $1 million for children affected by HIV in Africa.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Together, William and Harry have raised over $10 million in charity from polo events since 2007.

Prince Harry and William enjoy a polo game | Image Courtesy of Jane Mingay at Getty Images
Prince Harry and William enjoy a polo game | Image Courtesy of Jane Mingay at Getty Images

And perhaps, at least in modern terms, it’s through charity that we can find the staying power of polo in the House of Windsor. As members of the royal family, both princes are tasked with supporting charity. What better way to do it than through a game that their family has enjoyed for generations?

In time, as Queen Elizabeth steps away from her royal duties, her grandsons’ duties will certainly increase. So catching a glimpse of either Prince mid-chukker will become more difficult to do. With this in mind, the events that they do choose to participate in will likely be more coveted – helping to raise more money for charity in the process.

Ultimately, the ties between the Windsors and polo run deep. And the work that they do through the sport is as important to Great Britain as they are to the members of the family who undeniably love the sport as well.

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Angelika Pokovba

Angelika Pokovba has ridden all paths of life, from luxury fashion to travel writing. But equestrian sports have always lurked in the shadows since learning to ride as a child with her dad. She is now turning her long-time hobby into a proper journalistic beat.
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