Eager eyed spectators and fans may have noticed Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex at the PDC World Darts Championships in 2015. On Monday 29th December 2014 Harry joined in with the fans to watch Michael van Gerwen in action as he beat James Wade 4-1. However, it isn’t the first time Harry has visited the Alexandra Palace to watch the PDC World Championship Finals, he also attended in 2011.
Maybe one day we will see Prince Harry’s wife Megan at the darts., she may even play but I am not privy to that information.
The Prince is a keen supporter of all sports and is commonly seen at rugby, football and polo matches. The Prince was instrumental in creating the INVICTUS GAMES (motto I AM) for wounded ex-serviceman. The first of these games was opened earlier in September 2014 at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London.
The Invictus Games is an international adaptive multi-sport event which includes wheelchair basketball, sitting volleyball and indoor rowing just to name a few. The games were named after Invictus, Latin for ‘unconquered’ or ‘undefeated’.
Harry certainly isn’t the first Royal to show his enthusiasm for the sport.
Turning back the clock to December 1937, Prince Harry’s grandad and grandma, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, mother of the present monarch, visited a Slough social club, near Windsor Castle, no not the Windsor Castle pub, the Windsor Castle. They were invited to try their hands at darts. The King scored 19 with three darts and the Queen scored 21 and declared herself the winner.
It seems that the Princess Royal’s daughter, Zara Philips and her husband Mike Tindall also like to visit the darts. In 2012 the pair joined the party at the PDC World Darts Championships at the Alexandra Palace. Who can blame them, it is the biggest party of the year and the fans many dressed in fancy dress just want to have fun and watch some superb arrow throwing!
At this point, it is worth noting references to King Henry VIII.
In 1530’s Anne Boleyn, Henry’s second wife, gave Henry VIII a set of "darts of Biscayan fashion, richly ornamented," these were not darts as we know them today but more of a small throwing spear. I believe these are available to see on display at Hampton Court Palace, best check before making the pilgrimage.
Even our Pilgrim fathers are said to have had darts on the Mayflower (1620) and although their main use was for a weapon. It is, however, conceivable, they may have used the butt of a wine cask as a "board" for target practise. However, this is certainly unclear and cannot be used as a fact.
Prince Charles is a keen supporter of the Sport. In 2007 the Prince gave his support ‘to save our darts campaign’ that was highlighted by the Daily Telegraph newspaper to help prevent the demise of the game. Well. It certainly did the job! At Clarence House, Charles told publicans ‘I’m doing my best to keep the darts tradition going’
His comments follow a survey that the game was under threat from the rise of gastropubs, where the décor catered more for dinners than traditional pub game players.
The Prince has also thrown a dart or two and clearly is a supporter of traditional sport played by thousands in traditional British pubs and Clubs. He has been photographed with his wife, Cameilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, throwing darts on more than one occasion.
The most unlikely of sports does breed players that are willing to give up their time to support others. Charity events to raise money for good causes are held up and down the country every year and most professional dart players at some point have given up their time to support such events. Mostly these go under the radar as the players do not seek publicity for themselves but generally want to help and support the good hard work others campaign for.
The late and great 5, time World Darts Champion, Eric Bristow, was awarded the MBE (Member of the British Empire)in 1989 for services to the sport of darts. At this point no other player had received such an honour. It was not until 2013 that such an honour was disposed on another. Trina Gulliver, the ten-time ladies World Darts Champions, received her MBE award for services to the sport of darts and for her charity work. I was personally involved in submitting the application for her to receive the honour.
It seems the Royals are all dart fans, whether they have the odd dartboard hanging up to play a quick game we are unlikely to never know.
One of the biggest events of 2011 UK Calendar was the Wedding of Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge to Kate Middleton who became the Duchess of Cambridge at the point of marriage. The couple, like many other royals rather donations to charity than gifts for their wedding, however, they did receive some!
Martin Adams won his third Lakeside World Darts title in 2011 along with England colleague Trina Gulliver who won her ninth title that year. After the tournament finished, Martin thought it would be nice to present his winning darts to the Prince and his new wife. Trina was also asked if she would join suit and give her darts to the couple, a belated Wedding Present! I am sure the young couple might have had a few more things on their mind, however, presentation boxes were made and the two sets of darts were sent to the newly married couple.
As many fans will know and any dart player will own, dart players tend to have more than one set of darts. Purely for a back-up or as a spare. But only a few know that is until now, that I received Trina’s winning darts that year and Prince William and Kate received her spare set!
Before the 2011 Lakeside World Championship started, I asked Trina, a long-time friend, if she would give me her dart if she won the title! She agreed and I received the darts well before Martin had decided to give his winning darts away. Trina’s darts at the time were different than the ones sold by her dart sponsor Winmau. She was experimenting with the diamond-encrusted grip well before these became available on the market and you couldn’t purchase the darts Trina was actually using. I proudly have these displayed in my office. Trina now uses a new 90% tungsten alloy dart made by the world famous Winmau Darts Company.
I am sure darts will continue to receive royal approval as it is part of the British DNA. I would suggest publicans think again as regards some of the failed gastropubs and re-establish the traditional British pub where people can meet, chat and play pub games. There is some hope here as the ‘Flight Club’ pubs seem to be leading the way. Pubs dedicated to the sport.
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