Some historians have suggested that the four suits in solitaire represent the four classes of medieval society.

The cups and chalices (now hearts) may represent clergy; the sword (spades) represents nobles or soldiers; the coin (diamonds) represents merchants; and the scepter (clubs) represents peasants. However, there are some differences between the different cards that cast doubt on this statement. For example, the early German “hunting solitaire” has a bell suit, which should be more in line with the symbol of German nobility than the spade suit, because in eagle hunting, a bell is usually tied to the eagle’s leg band, and eagle hunting was a noble activity at that time. In French cardboard, the square should be more suitable to represent the upper class, because the paving stones used in the church are square-shaped, and the graves of noblemen after their death are also marked with stones of this shape.

If, as suggested above, the colors represent different classes, what about clovers, acorns, leaves, spears, shields, coins, roses, and countless other patterns? He says that a more plausible explanation for the cardboard suits is that they were researched and decided upon by wealthy families, and that the choice of suits reflected, to some extent, the tastes and interests of the nobility.

Among the four suits of the K card, you may notice that the King of Hearts is a little different: the king on top is the only king without a beard, and he appears to be holding a sword in the direction of his head, which is why he is also known as the “Suicide Old K”. But in fact, the reason behind this is not so dramatic. The worker who first carved the figure of Charles the Great on the wood panel accidentally scraped off the beard on his upper lip when his chisel slipped, so the king in the K of Spades has no beard. Paul Bostock explains that after the printing plates had worn out, the makers created a new set of plates by copying the plates or cards, a process in which errors were amplified and the other end of the sword behind Charles the Great’s head slowly disappeared.

The large number of handicraft techniques used in the production of solitaire and the high government tax on solitaire make each deck of solitaire a commodity worth buying. Solitaire has also become an appreciated work of art. Solitaire makers make solitaire not only for playing poker games, but also for illustration, promotion and advertising purposes. Perhaps because of their preciousness, they are also repurposed: as invitations, admission tickets, obituaries, wedding announcements, sheet music or invoices, or even for correspondence between lovers or as objects left behind by mothers who have abandoned their babies. In this way, the ordinary paper plate can sometimes become an important historical document, providing a door into the past for scholars and collectors alike.

The standard playing poker games usually consists of two extra “hundreds”, each bearing the image of a court jester, which can outplay any other card. Strangely enough, very few games used them. It is probably for this reason that small and large kings are the only cards that lack a standard, widely recognized industry design.

Back to Top