Mallet Of Death
The cast of Bridgerton play pall mall

Yes, That Lawn Game In Bridgerton Is Real — Here's How To Play It

Sexual tension sold separately.

by Ani Bundel
Originally Published: 
Liam Daniels/Netflix

Have you heard of Pall Mall? Although the name may sound like a bad habit from the 1980s, before it was a cigarette brand, it was the name of one of the most popular lawn games in the U.K. among the upper classes. After a few references to the game in Season 1, Bridgerton dedicated most of an episode to it in Season 2. But fans should know this is no Quidditch; Pall Mall is a real game that actually existed outside of Bridgerton — in fact, many people played it up until WWII.

Warning: Spoilers for Bridgerton Season 2 follow. Fans of author Julia Quinn’s novels have been anticipating Pall Mall since the show’s first season casually mentioned it. The books only really dive into the game once, in The Viscount Who Loved Me, but it’s one of the best ensemble scenes in the entire series. It’s also Quinn’s central character-defining sequence, which she uses to lay out everyone’s core personalities for the readers, helping to set up the rest of her novel series.

Quinn understood the importance of the scene for Kate and Anthony’s story (and for the rest of the Bridgerton crew) and requested the Netflix series keep it for the screen adaptation. For fans who had not read the books, it was not a disappointment. But for those who haven’t read the books, it may have been confusing:What are the rules? And why are they playing this odd sport to begin with?

Liam Daniels/Netflix

Time for a brief history lesson: Pall Mall was originally Paille-maille. (As with everything the upper classes do in England, it was copied from the French.) It’s basically billiards, but played on the lawn instead of a table. The original French version was actually called jeu de mail, which then borrowed the Italian word pallamaglio, which translates to “ball mallet.” The game was introduced from France to Scotland under Mary, Queen of Scots (who lived in France until she ascended the throne), and then south to England.

As for how it is played, this description was first published in 1656 in Thomas Blount’s Glossographia: “A game wherein a round bowle is with a mallet struck through a high arch of iron (standing at either end of an alley) which he that can do at the fewest blows, or at the number agreed on, wins.”

If this seems a little antique for Bridgerton, set 150 years later in 1814, that’s because it is. The Bridgertons are being pretty old-fashioned by playing it — showing off their family’s storied lineage in carrying on this tradition even as it fell out of favor. Like many staples of the English gentry, Pall Mall all but disappeared after WWI arrived, as did most of the traditions that are the hallmarks of Bridgerton. The last known pubs to still have the game disappeared after the 1930s as WWII did away with the last remnants of the old world.

Bridgerton Seasons 1 and 2 are streaming on Netflix. Season 3 is expected in 2023.

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