Have you ever wondered who the kings are in a deck of cards are or what the four suits mean. The court deck was developed in Western Europe in the 16 century and became the standard design for England. The English court deck has become the most common deck of playing cards. English court cards were never based on any historical royal figures. However, card makers in France often assigned historical royals to the cards. This early practice was not standardized and who the face on the card represented was up to the maker of the player cards. During the 16th century, the industry standardized the representations to represent great rulers from history:
Charlemagne, was King of the Franks from 768 to 814. Charlemagne expanded the Frankish kingdom into a Frankish Empire, that incorporated much of Western and Central Europe. He is regarded as the father of Europe. Charlemagne represents the King of Hearts.
The King of diamonds represents Julius Caesar. Julius Caesar was one of history's greatest generals and a key ruler of the Roman empire. Caesar is thought to have been assassinated on March 15th 44B.C. March 15 is known as "the Ides of March".
Alexander the Great represents the King of Clubs. Alexander was the worlds first truly great King. Alexander the Great came close to conquering the entire civilized world of his day
Israels King David represents the King of Spades. Some consider him only a biblical myth the boy who kills the giant enemy soldier Goliath. Under Davids rule, Israel's regions united and win many battles against the Philistines
This practice of naming cards ended after the French Revolution and the beheading of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.
Although the practice of naming cards ended in the 16th century the names have stuck and the cards are still considered to represent the four great rulers of history. Many great rulers have come and gone since the 16th century, but none have replaced the original industry standard set by France in the 16 century. People may debate the meanings of the Kings, but they cannot debate the true test, which is time.
France introduced the suits we know today to represent the different feudal classes: hearts (representing the Church), spades (for the Military), diamonds (for the Merchants) and clubs (for the Agricultural). They also introduced the convention of coloring the diamonds and hearts red, and the spades and clubs black.
Each king in a deck of playing cards represents a great king from history: Spades - King David; Clubs - Alexander the Great;Hearts-Charlemagne and Diamonds - Julius Caesar.