PJ Madsen's Playing Card Museum
Brief History of Playing Cards:
This topic is covered in more detail on various sites on the WEB.
The Kings depicted and Named on French cards represents the 4 civilizations which most influenced medieval culture:
The Hebrews (David, King of Israel, a great warrior who slew Goliath = Spades).
The Holy Roman Empire (Charlemagne King of the Franks AD 768-816 = Hearts).
The Romans (Julius Caesar 100?-44 BC, general and statesman = Diamonds).
The Greeks (Alexander the Great, King of Macedonia and one of the greatest generals in Greek history 356-323 BC = Clubs).
The Jacks depicted and Named on the French cards are as follows:
Hearts = Etienne de Vignolles (AD1500) better known as La Hire, a French Knight and comrade in arms of Joan of Arc who introduced the suits (spades, hearts, diamonds & clubs) as we know them today.
Diamonds = Hector, the great hero of Troy from the Iliad.
Spades = Hogier, the Danish hero in legends and a knight who married Morgan Le Fey, the fairy sister of King Arthur.
Clubs = Sir Lancelot, a fictional but well known Knight of the Round Table.
When the English began to manufacture cards, their designs were based on French models, though the English imposed their own personality on the cards. The English Kings are dressed in costumes of Henry VIII, the Queens are in the dress of his mother Elisabeth of York and the Jacks are dressed like the squires described in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.
The Queens depicted and Named on the French cards are:
Hearts = Judith, the Hebrew heroine. Diamonds = Rachel wife of Jacob northern Israelite tribes.
Spades = Pallas Athena, the Greek God of war and wisdom.
Clubs = Argine, an anagram of REGINA.
The 4 suits reflect the structure of medieval society.
In Italy these were swords, cups, coins & batons, which stood for the Kings, the Church, the Merchants and Agriculture.
A French knight called La Hire introduced the suits as follows to represent the same elements:
Lance-points (Spades) for the Nobility, Hearts for the Clergy,
Diamonds for the Merchants
Clover (Clubs) for the Peasants.