Playing cards became popular in Europe arund 1378 and although their origin remains a mystery to this day - did gypsies from India bring them over? were they invented to entertain Chinese emperor Houi-Tsong's concubines in 1120? - their popularity is here to stay.
Card players are very particular about the illustrations used on cards. Different images and patterns can throw off their concentration, hence card designs have remained pretty much the same since the fifteeenth century.
The English design that most card players are familiar with was derived from the Auvergne patterns of the eighteenth century. During this early period in card playing history, different regions of different countries had their own unique faces. Especially in France this was so. A card player from Lyon about to engage in a friendly little gamble in Paris would not recognize the pattern on the cards dealt to him!
The Paris pattern goes back to the sixteenth century and is the source of contemporary French cards. It's principal characteristic is the attribution of names to the various characters depicted ( the theme of this blog, if I ever get 'round to coming to the point )
In 1813, after the Revolution, a unique deisgn was chosen to represent the entire empire. Engraver Nicolas Marie Gatteaux's pattern was selected and in 1830 it officially recieved it's double/mirrored end. ( Hip Hip hooray! ) Running along the left sides of these cards were the names of whom the Kings, Queens, and Jacks represented.....
King of Spades - King David
King of Clubs - Alexander the Great
King of Hearts - Charlemagne
King of Diamonds - Julius Cesaer
Queen of Spades - Pallas aka Minerva
Queen of Clubs - Argine
Queen of Hearts - Judith ( of the Book of Judith )
Queen of Diamonds - Rachel
Jack of Spades - Hogier the Dane, one of Charlemagne's paladins
Jack of Clubs - Lancelot
Jack of Hearts - "La Hire" a famous French warrior
Jack of Diamonds - Hector of Troy
Another smidget of absolutely purposeless information generously shared to me loyal crop of readers ( is anyone out there? ) by none other than Buccanneer Birdie herself. Yea verily, if you ever have need for nonsense, look no further than this obscure blog!