Zut alors, WG Grace, the colossus of British cricket would be dropping his bat in shock at a story that’s hit the news in France and making its way around the world – the French invented cricket.
At least that’s what is being claimed!
A letter written in 1478 to King Louis XI, also known as Louis the Prudent, mentions the word “criquet” in describing a game played in the village of Liettres, Pas de Calais.
It’s a sleepy little village not far from the historic town of Aire-sur-la-Lys, famous for its annual sausage throwing festival that takes place on the first weekend of September. Claims have been put forward by French historians that the little village of Liettres hosted the first known game of cricket, nearly a century before historians say that it was played in England, where it’s always been thought it was invented by shepherds using their crooks. The update from this lovely rural area of northern France has made international news and put Liettres firmly in the limelight.
Did the French invent cricket? Could it really be that one of the oldest sports in the world and said to be the most English of games, really started in France? The letter that has started everyone pondering was sent to the king to complain about an incident in which a man was killed during a match. An early version of sporting hooliganism appears to have taken place and an onlooker watching a game of “croquet” was attacked for irritating the players by staring and a death resulted. In 1997 the then Prime Minister of Britain claimed that “Frankly, the concept of the French inventing cricket is double-dutch” and that the letter in question didn’t mean what was being claimed. It’s also been suggested that the English soldiers at Agincourt played an early game of cricket and it was picked up by the French at that point – it’s unlikely though as the English were only at Agincourt for such a short time.
Cricket is nowhere near as popular in France as it is in the UK but it is a growing sport. In Liettres, they’re making the most of this claim to fame as the originators of the second most popular sport in the world today. They’re hosting an ‘international cricket tournament’ in which Lille Cricket Club, one of the most active in France, will take on players from Whitstable in Kent and from Belgium.
The games will take place over the weekend of September 26 and 27, whatever the outcome, you can be sure Liettres will be celebrating their position!
Top Pic: Allée du Criquet, Liettres, northern France.
Website for more details: pays-de-la-lys-romane.fr