A Contribution from Richard Thorpe

Have you ever wondered why the symbols on playing cards are called Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds and Spades?

Yes! Yes! Obviously from the shape - but why were those shapes chosen in the first place I hear you ask - sit back and I will attempt to enlighten you.

    Among the first instances of playing cards, in a form we would recognise, were made for King Charles V1 of France. (He is the one we duffed up at Agincourt) He was an imbecile, and the cards were made as a way of entertaining him. The four suits represent the four estates of the realm over which he ruled so badly - the nobles,warriors, merchants and peasants.

    The heart shape looks like an escutcheon, the emblem of nobility. Why they are called hearts is obscure. The generally accepted explanation is, that the name, a literal translation of the French coeur, is a compliment to the contemporary merchant Jacques Coeur who imported the first pack into France from Italy, or somewhere beyond.

    Diamonds were adopted in England as a synonym for wealth, after the lozenge shaped tiles that paved the exchanges and marts of medieval Europe.

    Spades, the warrior emblem, they were meant to represent the points of pikes. The corresponding suit in the Spanish pack  are called swords (spadas) which we have corrupted into spades.

Clubs, represents a clover leaf, which us tillers of the soil, would have recognised readily enough. The club being the weapon of choice in 14th Century England for common folk, the name clubs was used to represent the commoners.