Mail (pall mall)

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.

En Europe, le jeu de mail était un jeu très populaire chez les rois et les aristocrates pendant les 16ème, 17ème et 18ème siècles ; aujourd’hui il est oublié complètement. De temps en temps, il y avait un écrivain historique qui était attiré par l’histoire de ce jeu. Un de ces historiens était Louis Edouard Fournier, archiviste-paléographe de la Bibliothèque nationale, qui a écrit un livre sur les jeux, jouets et amusements avant 1900. Dans ce livre, il a consacré un chapitre à l’histoire intéressante du jeu de mail, lequel vous trouverez ici .
Bonne lecture !

On the 26th and 27th September 2013 the European Association of Golf Historians & Collectors (EAGHC) held its 8th annual conference at the Royal Golf Club Ravenstein near Brussels.
During the two days presentations were given about different golf history subjects, alternated by discussions about collector items, ancient hickory golf clubs, ancient golf books, some good meals and a round of golf on the breath-taking, more than 100 years old course.
Our contribution to the conference was a presentation about our research to find the ancient jeu de mail courts in France and other European countries.
If you are interested, you’ll find our presentation here .
Happy reading!
If you would like to know more about the EAGHC and its activities, please contact

Le 26 et le 27 septembre 2013, l’Association Européenne des Historiens & Collectionneurs de Golf (European Association of Golf Historians & Collectors [EAGHC]) avait sa huitième Assemblée générale au Royal Golf Club de Belgique Ravenstein à Tervuren aux alentours de Bruxelles.
Pendant les deux journées, des présentations sur des sujets différents de l’histoire du golf, ont alterné avec des discussions sur des pièces de collection : des anciens clubs en bois de hickory (noyer blanc d’Amérique), des anciens livres sur le golf ; quelques bons repas et une partie de golf sur le parcours remarquable entre une collection fabuleuse d’arbres.
Notre contribution à l’assemblée était une présentation de notre recherche sur des anciens courts de mail en France et dans d’autres pays. Si vous êtes intéressés vous trouverez notre présentation ici .
Bonne lecture !
Si vous souhaitez en savoir plus de l’EAGHC et ses activités, contactez

Next Page »