While playing a game of rummy, you surely must have been curious about the answers to several questions surrounding playing cards. What is the origin of cards? Why are they red and black in color? How did they get their symbols i.e. hearts, diamonds, spades and clubs? What is the significance of face cards?
By the time your brain gets to the bottom of these questions on those 13 cards in your hand, it’s too late and the whole table waits for you to play your next move.
Although it may have been bad timing, these are some good questions raised by card enthusiasts. We have already answered a few of them in our previous blog posts. This time, we try to unravel the history behind face cards and find out if they represent real people.
What are face cards?
If you are new to playing cards, it is important to know what face cards are. If you have ever seen a standard deck of 52 cards, you might have noticed a few cards with faces on them. These faces depict kings, queens and jacks.
Each face card forms an integral part of the four suits, which are hearts, diamonds, spades and clubs. When arranged in a sequential order, jack is the lowest card (preceded by 10) and king is the highest card (preceded by queen). The value of these cards varies from game to game.
Do face cards represent real people?
The first ever picture cards were manufactured in Europe in the 15th century. The face cards captured the attention of many players. They had creative arts and vivid symbols that made them stand out from the rest. Many card lovers have speculated that these faces represent the intimidating monarchs from the Tudor times or the royalties from France. However, according to one historian, the producers of cards in medieval times did not have any official standardization. They were not based on real people. The court cards simply represented the clothing and accessories as those worn by the royals in Europe.
However, there have been several counter theories presented by many scholars through the years. A card deck may feature real kings and queens of a particular time. However, the artwork varied significantly from region to region. The 16th century French and British card decks depicted imagery of four great empires, which include Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, Charlemagne and the biblical King David on the king cards.
On the other hand, the queen cards represent the wives of the emperors or the goddesses of the time. Some popular queen cards had images of Athena the Goddess, Rachel, the wife of biblical Jacob, and many such people. However, the Spanish and German decks famously excluded female figures from their card decks.
In 16th century France, there was a trend to assign famous personalities or literary figures to court cards. However, this trend did not continue for too long and it was not universally accepted. Different regions and printers reflected their own preferences and choices for face cards. Nonetheless, the court cards are related to many famous persons and literary figures of the time.
Playing cards have a fascinating history that amazes people even today. If you are a card lover, you might enjoy playing different card games such as poker, bridge, solitaire and rummy. Among these, rummy continues to remain the most-loved card game of all time.
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