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A study by Federico Formenti of the University of Oxford suggests that the earliest ice skating happened in southern Finland about 4000 years ago.[1] Originally, skates were merely sharpened, flattened bone strapped to the bottom of the foot. Skaters did not actually skate on the ice, but rather glided on top of it. True skating emerged when a steel blade with sharpened edges was used. Skates now cut into the ice instead of gliding on top of it. Adding edges to ice skates were invented by the Dutch in the 13th century or 14th century. These ice skates were made of steel, with sharpened edges on the bottom to aid movement. The construction of modern ice skates has stayed largely the same.

In the Netherlands, ice skating was considered proper for all classes of people, as shown in many pictures by the Old Masters. James II of England came to the Netherlands in exile, and he fell for the sport. When he went back to England, this "new" sport was introduced to the British aristocracy, and was soon enjoyed by people from all walks of life. It is said[who?] that Queen Victoria got to know her future husband, Prince Albert, better through a series of ice skating trips.[citation needed] Meanwhile Fenland agricultural workers became masters of speed skating[citation needed]. However, in other places, participation in ice skating was limited to members of the upper classes. Emperor Rudolf II of the Holy Roman Empire enjoyed ice skating so much he had a large ice carnival constructed in his court in order to popularise the sport. King Louis XVI of France brought ice skating to Paris during his reign. Madame de Pompadour, Napoleon I, Napoleon III, and the House of Stuart were, among others, royal and upper class fans of ice skating.

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