HISTORY OF THE CORONATION CUP

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The King’s Coronation Cup was presented in 1911 by the Ranelagh Polo Club to commemorate the Coronation of HM King George V. The conditions specified that it was to be played for by the winners of the Hurlingham Champion Cup, the Ranelagh Open Cup and the Inter Regimental Tournament. When the Roehampton Club established its own Open Cup it was added to the roster. There was also a provision that allowed visiting teams from India, the colonies and dominions to participate in the competition, by invitation only. It was precisely a team representing the Indian Polo Association that took the inaugural Coronation Cup.  (Capt. Leslie Cheap, Capt. Shah Mirza Beg, Capt. Ralph Gerald Ritson, Capt. Vivian Lockett This format was in place until 1939.

In 1951 it was played for between Hurlingham and La Espadana, a visiting Argentine team. A series of matches was played with Hurlingham the winners. A tournament was then played in 1953 to mark HM Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation; participants were Argentina, Chile, England, Spain and United States. Argentina beat England in the final game 7-6.

Early in 1971 Lord Patrick Beresford introduced Col Gerard Leigh, then Chairman of Guards Polo Club and some members of the Club’s committee, to an American friend and polo player, Michael Butler. Beresford and Butler believed that there were sufficient English players at “the top of the tree” to form a team of around 23 goals which might take on an American team of similar handicap and that such a match would create much public interest. That first game featured a 23-goal English team featuring Hon Mark Vestey, Howard & Julian Hipwood and Paul Withers. However, the USA team (Ronnie Tongg, Billy Linfoot, Chico & Joe Barry) was not the highest handicapped that the USA could have fielded and so it was agreed that these two countries would play for the “mothballed” Coronation Cup instead of the Westchester Cup. The Americans won 9-6.

A year later the Coronation Cup moved to Smith’s Lawn. Guards Polo Club had the facilities to attract sponsorship and the Club’s Polo Manager, Major Ronald Ferguson, was put in charge of the event. He had just returned from an American tour with the Household Cavalry’s Musical Ride and had picked up some showmanship tips from the Americans. He put these into action, introducing a Best Playing Pony Award and a second game, which initially saw a Young England team play a Young American squad. The tobacco firm Wills sponsored the International Day from 1971-1978. When the HPA created the Silver Jubilee Trophy in 1977, to commemorate HM The Queen’s 25 years on the throne, HRH The Prince of Wales played and went on to captain his team in this match from 1977 – 1993. In fact HRH only missed two years: in 1978 he played for the opposing Commonwealth team, and in 1990 a polo fall kept him out of the saddle.

2019 is the first year that the Coronation Cup will the played at the Royal County of Berkshire Polo Club.