I was always under the impression that the Patron Saint of skating was a Dutch lady, St Lidwina (also know as Lidwid; Lidwina; Lidwina of Shiedam; Lijdwine; Lydwid) and I always thought it odd, especially as she had only ventured on the ice once, taking an unholy toss, breaking half a dozen ribs and in consequence remaining bed-ridden for the rest of her life. According to Dr. Ernest Jones, the eminent psychologist, who should know all about saints, this is not correct, St. Crispin having staked a claim a century earlier.
There is, however, no historical evidence that iron blades were used in medieval times, but it is presumed they were in regular use and definitely so when, in 1572, the Dutch Fleet being frozen in at Amsterdam, the Spanish Commander, Don Frederick, the son of Alva, sent troops to take the vessels; but the Dutch musketeers on skates came to their aid at great speed, and routed the Spaniards in no uncertain manner.
But apart from this commercial use, to which skating undoubtedly owes its origin, the inherent love of games of the British caused them, by the time of Charles II at any rate, to bring skating into the realm of sports and pastimes. In Pepys Diary we see:
Dec. 1. To my Lord Sandwichs, to Mr. Moore and then over the Parke, where I first in my life, it being a great frost, did see people sliding with their sweats, which is a very pretty art.
Dec. 15. To the Duke, and followed him into the parke, where, though the ice was broken and dangerous, yet he would go slide upon his skates, which I did not like, but he slides very well.
And then, in similar vein Evelyn in his Memoirs of John Evelyn.
Dec. 1, 1662. Having seen the strange and wonderful dexterity of the sliders on the new canal in St. James Park performed before their Majesties by divers gentlemen and others with scheets, after the manner of the Hollanders, with what swiftness they passe, how suddenly they stop in full carriere upon the ice, I went home by water, but not without exceeding difficultie, the Thames being frozen, greate flakes of ice incompassing our boate.
Evelyn was evidently impressed, just as are non-skaters of nowadays, by the capacity of the expert to stop abruptly when traveling at speed.
In Macaulays History of England we read that Charles II s son, the Duke of Monmouth, learned the art of skating from the Dutch ladies on the frozen canals during his tour there, and that in return he gave them instruction in English country dances.