Monday, November 7, 2016

Sports & Games - Golf & Women - Mary Queen of Scots 1542-1587 to 19C

The earliest painting I can find of a woman actually playing golf, or attempting to learn is from the 1600s.
1600s "Madam, please keep your eye on the ball!"  The 1st kolf lesson. Flemish painting by unknown artist.

The first documented mention of golf in Scotland appears in a 1457 (and again in 1471 & 1491) Acts of the Scottish Parliament, prohibiting the playing of of gowf as a distraction from archery practice for military purposes. Mary, Queen of Scots (1542-1587), also known as Mary Stuart or Mary I of Scotland, reigned over Scotland from December 1542 to July 1567. Mary, the only surviving legitimate child of King James V of Scotland, was 6 days old when her father died, and she acceded to the throne. She spent most of her childhood in France, while Scotland was ruled by regents. In 1558, she married the Dauphin of France, Francis. He ascended the French throne as King Francis II in 1559; and Mary briefly became queen consort of France, until his death in December 1560. Widowed, Mary, who had played golf in France, returned to Scotland, arriving in August 1561.  She got a cottage near the new golf course at St Andrews. It is believed that Mary Stuart, an avid golfer, coined the term “caddie” by calling her assistants “cadets.” Her closest friends in Scotland were her 4 ladies-in-waiting, also named Mary, one of whom was Mary Seton. According to tradition, the queen lost in match play to Mary Seton at Musselburgh awarding her a necklace as a prize. Mary was continually outdoors exercising, at hunting, hawking, and archery, or playing a French lawn bowling game called pall mall, and, of course, golf. She usually spent 3 hours a day on horseback, and wore serge breeches under her skirts; so that she could ride astride rather than sidesaddle, which disconcerted macho Scottish lords. To further anger the local gentlemen, early in her reign she hosted an equestrian competition with a team of female knights competing against male knights to see who could score more points by spearing a ring suspended from a post. 

Unfortunately, she then wed her 1st cousin the drunken Henry Stuart (or Stewart), Duke of Albany but called Lord Darnley (1545-1567).  He was described as the "lustiest and best proportioned man" that Mary Queen of Scots had ever seen. 
Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, King consort of Scotland

But Mary then launched a romantic alliance with James Hepburn (c 1534-1578), 4th Earl of Bothwell and 1st Duke of Orkney. The Scots refused to put up with the English-born Darnley, blowing up the castle where he was staying and strangling him in the garden in 1566. She was accused of being complicit in the murder, in order to marry Bothwell. 
James Hepburn (c 1534-1578), 4th Earl of Bothwell and 1st Duke of Orkney

After a series of dangerous revolts, the queen finally fled to England in 1568, where she was imprisoned and charges were brought against her. The lead accuser was her treacherous half-brother and rival, James Stewart, 1st Earl of Moray (c. 1531-1570), who offered as partial proof the fact that she had been seen on the golf links rather than in mourning: "A few days after the murder she passed to Seton, exercising her one day right openly at the fields with pall mall and golf," the charge read. This not only scandalized Scottish society and the church, but it raised questions about the propriety of women playing golf at all. Mary was deposed from her throne by chauvinist Scottish lords, and then beheaded by her rival Queen Elizabeth I. For more on Mary Stuart see: Sally Jenkins, Washington Post,  July 15, 2010

Several manuscript illustrations and prints show women playing some forms of early golf.
Book of Hours in Latin and French known as Les Heures de Abbot Guillaume de Bracque for whom it was written and illuminated between 1516 and 1547 
Book of Hours in Latin and French known as Les Heures de Abbot Guillaume de Bracque for whom it was written and illuminated between 1516 and 1574 (folios 48 verso and recto)
Personification of Socordia. A woman with a beugelbal, a bushel and a ring lying at her feet. Engraving on paper manufactured by Heinrich Aldegrever 1502-1538 Germany

However, accurate records of women actually playing golf only begin to appear in the 19C: 
1811 - On January 9, the 1st known women’s golf tournament is held at Musselburgh Golf Club, Scotland, among the town fishwives.

1867 - St. Andrew's in Scotland is the 1st ladies golf club.

1890 - Miss Carrie Low & John Reid defeat Mrs. Reid and John Upham in golf's 1st mixed foursome at St Andrew's golf club in NY.

1891 -The Shinnecock Hills Golf Club on Long Island opens its doors to women. Golf proved so popular that the club opened a 9-hole course for women 2 years later.

1893 - Formation of the Ladies Golf Union which sponsors the 1st British Ladies' championship, won by Lady Margaret Scott.

1893 - A woman invents the First Golf Handicap. Londoner Issette Miller helped develop one of the earliest golf handicap systems which levels the playing field between competitors of different abilities & experience.

1894 - The 1st ladies golf tournament in the United States is held on the 7-hole Morristown, NJ course on Oct 17-1894. Miss Hollard A. Ford won with a 97 scored on the double-7, 14 strokes under her nearest rival.

1894 - The first Australian women's national golf championship is held.

1895 - The first Women's Amateur Golf championship in the United States is contested among 13 golfers at the Meadow Brook Club, Hempstead, N.Y., on Nov. 9. The match is won by Mrs. Charles S. Brown with a 132 & the runner-up is Nellie Sargent.