Mail (pall mall)

Here you find more about the courses, how the game of mail was played as well as the equipment. Click here to read part 02 of the introduction of ‘Maliën in the Netherlands’..

As written earlier, the game of mail originated from Italy and crossed the French border around 1550. The game caught on quite well especially with aristocracy and bourgeois. All over the country mail alleys, both private and public, were constructed.
The interest in the game outside France remained rather limited, although in most European countries mail alleys were constructed between 1600 and 1700. This contribution is the first part about the mail game in the Netherlands. Click here to read the introduction to how and where the game was played..

Tradition has it that some men were playing the game of palla e maglio (jeu de mail/pall mall) on April 6, 1450, the Monday after Easter, near the painting the Madonna dell’Arco at Sant’Anastasia (near Naples, Italy).
The ball of one of the players struck the lime tree that shaded the edicola, or shrine, instead of where he wanted it to go. Angry, he threw his ball against the painting.
In one version of the story, the ball hit the cheek of the image, which turned red and began to bleed copiously. He tried to flee but could only go around and around the edicola without being able to leave. The Count happened to be passing by and after a proceeding, the man was hanged.

madonna dell'arco 2

In another version of the story, the Count freed the man thus saving him from the justice they were ready to impart.
In another version the lime tree from which he is hung withered and died that same day.
A little temple was built to protect the painting.

Anyway, the Sanctuary of the Madonna dell’Arco still is a destination every year on Easter Monday of the traditional pilgrimage of the “fujenti” or “battenti”, an event that brings thousands of worshippers.

madonna del'arco processie

Le château royal de Folembray fut bâti dans le style renaissance sous François 1er entre 1540 et 1552. Incendié en 1552 par les troupes impériales de Marie, reine de Hongrie, partiellement reconstruit par Henri II, le château n’est plus qu’un rendez-vous de chasse qu’occupe Henri IV, roi de France de 1589 à 1610.
Il y a une gravure de 1626, dessiné par François Langlois dit Chartres, sur laquelle on voit bien un jeu de mail.

folembrayy 1626
1626 François Langlois dit Chartres après Jacques I Androuet du Cerceau – Institut national de l’histoire de l’art, Cote NUM FOL EST 104 – Histoire du village de Folembray

Tout ce que reste du château, sont quelques souterrains sur du terrain privé et cette partie d’un tour ; donc aucune trace d’un jeu de mail.

ruine château royal
Photo Geert Nijs, 2017

Jeu de mail was played in Italy already in the 15th century. The game deceased on a day in 1939, when the last player returned home sadly from the mail field, because there were no playing partners anymore.
It is not known how the early mail clubs looked like. The first pictures and descriptions of the clubs show that they were rather different from the clubs, used in the kindred games colf, crosse and golf.
Click here to find out what has been discovered about the clubs, once handled by kings & commoners.

As long as the game of jeu de mail existed, the game was played with a wooden ball. Unlike colfers and golfers, mail players were never tempted to switch to ‘hairy’, feathery’ of synthetic balls.
Click here to get to know more about the long lasting use of wooden mail balls.

In the post from April of this year, we showed our research about the long and short game as played in the game of golf; in the previous one of May about the long and short game as played in colf. Today we would like to show you the difference between the long and short game of mail.
Here you find the story of mail.

On a toujours regardé le jeu de mail comme un jeu pour des gens courtois qui se détendent pour quelques heures sur le jeu de mail.
En annexe, deux anecdotes du jeu de mail aux XVIe et XVIIe siècles à Orange dans le sud de la France.
Il y a des personnes qui profitent, il y a des autres qui disent n’importe quoi, même des personnes bien élevées, avec des conséquences fatales.
Ici vous trouverez ces deux histoires.

In the course of the years, golf historians have written so often that golf is a royal game. Most golf history books emphasize the strong relationship between kings and golf, hence the ‘Royal and Ancient’ game. This indication has become a kind of trademark. It is remarkable that most British royals never played the game.
Without the shadow of a doubt, it is certain that the noble game of mail could have claimed the trademark ‘Royal and Ancient’. Most French royals were more or less avid mail players.
For details about the royals and their ‘palmail’ click here.

In the history of European stick and ball games, women and children have hardly ever played a more than marginal role. It took until the end of the 19th century for women in sports to become notable, often under the patronage of men.
During the many centuries of the existence of the games of crosse, colf, mail and golf not much has been written, drawn or painted of women and children playing these games. It was far more the exception than the rule when references were made in words or pictures to women and children hitting balls with a club. Certainly for ages these games were considered (by men) as being unsuitable for women. Playing in the streets, churchyards, fields and in and around the towns was not an acceptable environment. In the Middle Ages, cursing, swearing, drinking and fighting were more common.
If you want to know more about women in mail history click hear.

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