It was in France that the game as we know it today really came into being. During the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries it became the highly fashionable sport of kings and noblemen and was called ' Jeu de paumme' - the game of the palm. Early French players would begin a game by shouting 'tenez' i.e. 'Play!' and the game soon became known as Royal, or Real Tennis.
Real tennis was actually very different to the game that we know today. It was played indoors, in large galleries with jutting roofs and points were won according to how the ball was played off of the gallery walls. This is very different to today's Lawn Tennis, where the rectangular court is laid out on a grass surface and the play is within marked boundaries, not off of the walls. Another key difference is that Real tennis used a system of chases. In today's game if a ball bounces twice it is dead. In Real Tennis however, a marker would mark the point of the second bounce. This was known as the chase. In addition to playing for points, opponents would compete by trying to put their chase as close as possible to their opponents back wall. A player who had lagged behind in the points could come from behind to win the match by being more skilful at the chase.
After its initial rise in popularity with the French nobility, tennis spread throughout Europe, becoming particularly popular in England. As in France the game became recognised as the sport of kings. Henry VIII was a very keen player and built a court at his palace in Hampton Court, still used today by Real Tennis enthusiasts. Tennis wasn't just confined to France and England though, and the game also spread to Spain, Italy, Holland, Switzerland and Germany. In the 18th century however, the game went into decline, the French revolution and the Napoleonic wars virtually eliminating it across most of Europe.