Robert Dover's Games (Cotswold Olimpick Games) [Edit]

Robert Dover’s Games, or Cotswold Olimpick Games, were probably first contested in 1612, during Whitsun (Pentecostal) Week upon the Cotswold Hills. The Games were started by Robert Dover, a local lawyer who lived nearby in the Cotswold Hills. The Games were basically a medieval country fair type of festival but they achieved great fame. They were held from about 1612 to 1642 and were immortalized in a collection of 30 laudatory poems, entitled Annalia Dubrensia, and published about Robert Dover’s Olimpick Games in 1636. Four of the poems were composed by great poets of the era\: Ben Jonson, Michael Drayton, Thomas Heywood, and Sir William Davenant. It is slightly conjectural, but apparently even William Shakespeare knew of these Games, possibly mentioning them in Sir John Falstaff and the Merry Wives of Windsor. “Slender: ‘… How does your fallow greyhound, sir? I heard say he was outrun on Cotsall.’”

The Cotswold Olimpicks did not end after 1642 but were simply stopped during the Civil War in England. They were revived in the 1660s and were then held at unknown intervals for two centuries. In 1851, they were revived but were shortly thereafter suspended again. After another century, the Cotswold Olimpicks were revived in 1951, were briefly suspended and then resumed in 1963 to continue to this day. Though they were quite famous in their era, and though they have been contested for many centuries, the only justification to call them “Olympic” Games rests on the fact that they adopted that name and that they had been brought into contact with the Olympic, Pythian, Nemean, and Isthmian Games via the Annalia Dubrensia. They had no significant influence on Pierre de Coubertin or others who attempted to revive the Olympic Games.