According to Barry Cunliffe, Professor of Archeology at Oxford University, there is evidence from Fishbourne that the game was brought to Britain by the Romans, confirmed by a mosaic there with wall painted scenes to assist novice players. The game probably was known as Manadolius Luminatus from the 1st. century AD. A few oblique Domesday references exist, but nothing substantial until the time of Chaucer
in the 14th. Century.
However, it is clear even from those times that there was something of a schism between the 'real' game as played by the nobility, and the 'popular' game as played by the peasants: evidence from that survives even into some of today's game terminology, such as 'croupe' (later, 'croop', then 'croup'), 'revanche' and 'podume'. (French was the language of choice among the nobility in the 1100-1200s, and much of the French terminology has passed into the game largely unchanged – especially in casinos, where French terminology is also used for gambling at cards and roulette.) Catherine Howard is known to have scored a three-move victory over Henry VIII shortly before her demise (which this may have helped to cause: Henry was a notoriously bad loser.)
More can be found in Mornington Crescent, A Short History Of …
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