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Battledore and Shuttlecock

Battledore and shuttlecock or jeu de volant is an early game similar to that of modern badminton.

This game is played by two people, with small rackets, called battledores, made of parchment or rows of gut stretched across wooden frames, and shuttlecocks, made of a base of some light material, like cork, with trimmed feathers fixed round the top.

Georgian girl with Battledore and Shuttlecock by  Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin (1699-1779)
Georgian girl with Battledore and Shuttlecock by Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin (1699-1779)

The object of the players is to bat the shuttlecock from one to the other as many times as possible without allowing it to fall to the ground.

From Mrs. Hurst Dancing, by Diana Sperling
From Mrs. Hurst Dancing, by Diana Sperling

Jane Austen, herself, played the game with her nephews. In 1808, she wrote to Cassandra

Yesterday was a very quiet day with us; my noisiest efforts were writing to Frank, and playing at battledore and shuttlecock with William; he and I have practised together two mornings, and improve a little; we have frequently kept it up three times, and once or twice six.

Games with a shuttlecock are believed to have originated in ancient Greece about 2,000 years ago. From there they spread via the Indo-Greek kingdoms to India and then further east to China and Siam.

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