Archery values ​​and traditions – L’abat l’oiseau

Through the Petit Journal published by the FTA Committee on Values ​​and Traditions, we delve into the history and traditions of archery. For this new problem, focus on “The Abat l’oiseau from the eighteenth century to the present day.”

Besides the regional bouquet, bird-killing is one of the centuries-old traditions that have been passed down from generation to generation of archers to this day. It’s an annual tournament within each company during which shooters challenge each other to determine the best (or luckiest) of them all, called Roy, by shooting a wooden bird, also called Papegay.1 in the northern regions.

Based on reading three texts of the statute and regulations2 On the one hand, and in view of the uses currently in force (the fruits of the development of society), we propose a comparative study of bird shooting since the seventeenth century.


Date : tentatively set on May 1, or the first Sunday of May, after the resolution of the General Assembly of Officers and Knights on the last Sunday of April (seventeenth century), and recommended during March, April or May, following the resolution of the day and its duration by the assembly of the company in January referred to to it by the poster (19th century), preferably before the first of May, during March or April (20th century). This recommendation currently prevails to allow Roy to participate in Roy de France archery (a practice established in 1951).


Shooting day: In the eighteenth century, officers and knights, wearing their swords at their side and the medal of Saint Sebastian in their buttonholes, had to gather in the room at the appointed time, and then escort the flag to the place of firing. Fine. They all had to pay their arrears to the company in advance. The officers and knights together decided the price (the amount of money) they would give to the king, called Joyau du Roy.

In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, it was so except that there was no longer any mention of the sword or the medal, it was replaced by uniforms and insignia of rank. We also note the appearance of the drum accompanying the flag. The expression “Joyau du Roy” disappears and only the price remains. Shooting can start as soon as there are three knights.

Currently these rules are still in effect. Thus, we can read in the equestrian charter in the Arc of France3 “No one can take part in this shooting if he has a debt to his company or a complaint to his comrades. Officers, knights, and archers shall meet on the day and at the time agreed upon in the garden of the bow, with the tabla (if possible) and the flag.”

Moreover, it is customary to start the day with a warm welcome over a cup of coffee, hot chocolate or hot wine, accompanied by a brioche bread that Roy the previous year had made sure to serve. This is followed by a dance salute (if possible) accompanied by a moment of silence with the flag lowered, shared by all participants (shooters and accompanying persons). Archers wear company uniforms and officers wear their sash.

shot: Originally, it was practiced exclusively with the shaft but in the 19th century it was specified that if the shaft could not be depicted, it be drawn into the ridge.

It is currently the same, either shooting from a pole, 18-30 meters high, or horizontally if the security perimeter cannot be guaranteed, at 50 meters, in a bow game when the company has one.

Young shooters only shoot at a height of 30 meters during a parallel tournament or organized on another day, to designate a Kinglet who can also take part in the shooting of the Kinglet of France (since 2000). In some companies there is a shooting of the little prince for the youngest.


the bird: The eighteenth century, it was “of wood and the form used in every firm”, it was placed on two wooden legs without the use of iron or copper. In the 19th century it was sized, and it must have been about an inch, without loosening wings or legs. It was placed in front of the black card, stuck by the tail on a rod, without iron or copper. In the 20th century, the description remained the same except for its size, which was one inch by two.

These dimensions still apply: “The bird is stuck in the center of the Beursault cards. The portion facing the shooter must not exceed one inch by two inches or 26mm wide and 52mm high. It must be made of relatively soft wood glued to a board allowing for an easy knockout. In the event of a direct impact.

Excerpt from “Petit Journal de la Commission Valeurs et Traditions” – Special Kills the Bird

1 – The word Papigai probably derives from the Spanish papagayo (parrot) since Flanders and Artois were Spanish possessions in the 16th and 17th centuries, and where guilds of arquebusiers used to shoot the killer bird on May 1, as documented in La Relations de la Campagne de Flandre de 1649 by Jean-Antoine Vincart, p. 365: “(…) susçedió que la gulda de los arcabuçeros, llamada de San Christoval, en la villa de Brusselas, tirando al papagayo el primer día de mayo (…)”, in https://www.persee .fr/doc/bcrh_0770-6707_1894_num_63_4_2171, consulted March 9, 2022. Moreover, in Flemish, the parrot is called Papagai.

2 – Mgr. Henri Charles Arnold de Pompon, Statutes and General Regulations for All Noble Bow Game Companies and the Brethren of Saint Sebastian in the Kingdom of France, 1733. André V. Gillette’s Copy, Knight of the Bow and Knight of the Order of Saint Sebastian, 1986 (according to Moreau-Nélaton 1912 text), p. . 5-7. Statutes and Regulations for Bow Riding, The Paris Family, Ed. Leconte, Crépy-en-Valois, 1889, p. 19-20. General Regulations for Archers and Archers of France, 1934-1960, Free Trade Agreement, November 20, 1960, p. 27-28

3 – Equestrian Charter of the Arc de France, issued October 20, 2019.

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